When 17-year-old Yoel Ferdman applied to college, he was accepted at selective schools such as UCLA, UC Berkeley and NYU. He chose Minerva, a new school based in San Francisco.
“The opportunity to be part of the founding class and to co-create my experience is something that I’m not going to find anywhere else,” he says. “Really out of all my other options it just was not comparable.”
Minerva is unique in many ways. With tuition set at $10,000, it’s a couple thousand dollars less than UC and a quarter the cost of an Ivy League university. There is no campus at Minerva. Most of the students in the founding class come from overseas - just four are Americans. And the courses they take are entirely online.
“Most people would think that this is really difficult to do, to be accustomed to having classes online,” says freshman Ailen Matthiess. “I think it’s a fabulous experience. And I’m really engaged.”
Minerva students live together in one building in San Francisco. Starting in their second year, they’ll move to a different city every semester.
“I’ll be going to Buenos Aires and Berlin for my sophomore year and after that the plan is to go to Hong Kong and Mumbai for junior year and New York and London for the last year,” says Ferdman.
Matthiess adds, “I think to understand the world’s biggest problems we need to live in different cities and see the different problems people have and how they try to solve them.”
Former Harvard dean Stephen Kosslyn heads up academics at Minerva.
“What we’ve done is basically push the reset button for the 21st century,” Kosslyn says. “We can start over and do what we think makes sense in a way that you simply can’t do at an established institution.”
For a generation of students who grew up online, taking on a new kind of college experience isn’t so far fetched.
“I like the idea of redefining what it means to go through this experience, the university experience,” says Ferdman.
The founding class at Minerva is just 28 students. Next year, more than 200 students will spend their freshman year in San Francisco before heading out across the globe.