Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan | TigerDroppings.com

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Doc Fenton
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Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


I was shocked by the last three paragraphs in a recent WSJ article from last Saturday (" The Man Who Would Overthrow Harvard") where Matthew Kaminski interviewed Ben Nelson about his Minerva Project, which has the backing of powerful political players like Larry Summers & Bob Kerrey.

quote:

Effusive on every other topic, Mr. Nelson turns vague when I bring up Minerva's finances. Skeptical investors have seen this movie before. Mr. Nelson doesn't even hint at projected profit or a growth timetable. He says the school has to become roughly the size of an Ivy League university, enrolling around 10,000 students, to break even. "Making your profit, your substantial revenue, based on 18-year-olds is not the mover," he says. "It's what you do with them. It's how you build the brand."

If the bulk of revenues won't come from undergrads, then where? "We'll see," he says. Perhaps executive education, or licensing classroom content or technology, or putting on conferences. "Our enterprise value will not be derived nearly as much from our 'E' as much as P/E," he says, as in the price/earnings ratio. "It isn't about maximizing profits. It's all about how the brand unlocks the future potential earnings." Harvard, a multibillion-dollar operation, is a business more than an academic model.

Whether or not Mr. Nelson and Minerva shake up American higher education, someone will.


As some may know, I am very interested in the field of for-profit education as something that I will probably want to do once I get into my 50's or 60's. I love the whole elite prep school environment. I love MOOCs and academic prize competitions. I love the Taps style military history of football, going back even further to the beginnings of soccer & rugby at the seven traditional English public schools (see the Public Schools Act of 1868; see also the Eight Schools Association in the U.S.; see also elite Swiss boarding schools).

But the whole educational system is about to undergo revolutionary changes quite soon, and the whole college degree model will (hopefully!) be destroyed over the next decade or two. Already, we see elite players like Paul Wilmott and his Wilmott CQF Program (with graduates having their names published in an edition of The Economist), and we have big name universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Cal-Tech, Berkeley, etc., giving away their brand recognition for online degree programs and other widely available courses through platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udacity.

Then there are the prestigious academic math competitions like the MATHCOUNTS (for middle schoolers); ARML and AMC/AIME/USAMO/ International Mathematical Olympiad (for high schoolers); and the Putnam Competition (for undergrads).

It's sort of interesting to think about how all this is going to break down and evolve over the next 20-30 years. I think it's a given that enterprises like Nelson's Minerva Project are going to flop (despite the big names), because he has no idea where he's going or how he'll get there.

I think the MOOCs are here to stay, and that they will essentially take down the traditional elite university system, but that this will open up a whole new Wild West type of environment for education in general, where debt and tuition get drastically lowered, and a premium is put more on tutoring and standardized test prep rather than brick-and-mortar, you-should-admit-me-because-my-daddy-paid-for-me-to-help-poor-guatemalan-orphans bull shite.

Already in countries like China & South Korea, tutoring outside of normal school hours is big business, and there are some very large companies that do this, along with some very highly paid star video tutors. (A WSJ article from another Saturday--on August 3--gives the story of Kim Ki-Hoon, " The $4 Million Dollar Teacher," and describes the big "hagwon" for which he works, Megastudy Co. Ltd.)

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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


...

So I guess when you come down to it, the education field looks a bit like this right now:

(1) You have the elite traditional schools like Eton, Rugby, Exeter, Groton, Andover, etc.

(2) You have the elite traditional colleges like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Cambridge, etc.

(3) You have the new online university MOOC platforms, like edX, Coursera, Udacity, etc.

(4) You have the whole alternative certification system, like what Paul Wilmott is trying to do for the field of quantitative finance.

(5) You have the for-profit online schools at the low-end, like U. of Phoenix, ITT, DeVry, etc.

(6) You have the traditional SAT/ACT/whatever test prep companies, and those that offer after-school tutoring, such as Sylvan, Kaplan, The Princeton Review, etc.

(7) You have a few select players that dominate the creation of standardized tests, like College Board, ETS, etc.

and I'll include this just because it's near and dear to my heart...

(8) You have some traditional schools trying to fight back against some of the more troubling currents of mainstream culture, such as Grove City College & Hillsdale for college, along with a whole homeschooling subculture that exists for K-12 education, and also on the side of all that, traditional military prep academies (that have often morphed into athletic prep factories) like Fork Union, Hargrave, Valley Forge, etc.



xxx



Okay. So what needs to happen?

I think that for right now, the business model just doesn't exist for displacing traditional education, especially on the university level. There is too much easy money sloshing around and too much bloat and excess of which society is not yet ready to let go.

The industry certificate field, particularly on the high end with things like Wilmott's QCF certificates, are a great thing, and when this finally meets at the lower end with things like the Khan Academy, we might witness the birth of an organic system of learning with a huge web-like map of individual modules (sort of like civilization advances in Sid Meier's Civilization game series).

From this point, the MOOCs would be huge in making this modular system of learning available to the global masses, and smallish schools with individual tutors helping students prepare for these MOOCs would become the norm.

At this point, the elite schools could prosper once again, not as debt-financed and morally bankrupt behemoths, but rather as preservers of culture and tradition that also serve as places for like-minded people to study for MOOCs, supplanting their certificates with an overarching philosophical/political/athletic/religious worldview that ties all their learning together into a unified whole. This was, after all, the whole idea behind the medieval creation of universities in the first place, and this is what was advocated by John Henry Newman in the 19th century.

But none of this can come to fruition of course, until the whole usurious student loan system falls into utter ruin... which it surely will eventually. Then, there will finally be lots of money to be made by small operators who can manage small schools that can outperform other small schools located throughout the world.






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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


And this subject matter is so sprawling in its complexity, I'm already starting to think of things I left off, like...

* CFA exams
* Sandhurst Military Academy
* Bar-Bri
--> plus the whole informational database platforms industry (Bloomberg; S&P Capital IQ; FactSet; MergerMarket; LexisNexis; WestLaw; etc.)
* Microsoft/Oracle certificates
* etc.






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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


Somebody is stealing my thread ideas.

See AlaTiger's " College Bubble About to Burst? Ga Tech's $7000 online computer science masters."

Anyway, this reminds me of a thread from last December (JollyGreenGiant's " I want to learn the Java programming language.") where I mentioned the article, " 12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free."

Of course there are online programming courses & tutorials (for things like C++, Java, PHP, etc.) all over the damn Internet, but I suppose two things worth mentioning are Udemy (see a C programming language course here) and codeacademy.com.






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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


The 8 member schools of the ESA:

Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, CT)
Deerfield Academy (Deerfield, MA)
The Hotchkiss School (Lakeville, CT)
The Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, NJ)
Northfield Mount Hermon School (Gill, MA)
Phillips Academy Andover (Andover, MA)
Phillips Exeter Academy (Exeter, NH)
St. Paul's School (Concord, NH)

Not included of course are The Hill School, Boston Latin School, Groton School, Aquinas Institute, Harvard-Westlake School, or Sidwell Friends School.

EDIT: I just noticed the Ten Schools Admissions Organization, which does include The Hill School, along with Loomis Chaffee School and the Taft School. It does NOT include Northfield.

The 7 British public schools recognized in the 1868 act:

Charterhouse School
Eton College
Harrow School
Rugby School
Shrewsbury School
Westminster School
Winchester College

And here's an interesting article in Forbes from Dec. 12, 2007: " Europe's Most Expensive Boarding Schools."

#1. Le Rosey, Château de Rosey, Rolle Switzerland ($73,150 / yr)
#2. College Alpin Beau Soleil, Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland ($70,220 / yr)
#3. Aiglon College, Chesieres, Switzerland ($63,200 / yr)
#4. Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, Zuoz, Switzerland ($62,900 / yr)
#5. Brillantmont International School, Lausanne, Switzerland ($58,500 / yr)
#6. Gstaad International School, Gstaad, Switzerland ($58,500 / yr)
#7. Leysin American School, Leysin, Switzerland ($57,350 / yr)
#8. Institut auf dem Rosenberg (Anglo-American Section), St. Gallen, Switzerland ($57,000 / yr)
#9. St. George’s School, Clarens, Switzerland ($56,000 / yr)
#10. Eton College, Windsor, England ($54,900 / yr)
#11. Charterhouse School, Godalmen, Surrey, England ($54,000 / yr)
#12. Benenden School, Cranbrook, Kent ($54,000 / yr)
#13. Roedean School, Brighton, England ($53,400 / yr)
#14. Marlborough College, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England ($53,250 / yr)
#15. Wellington College, Crownthorne, Berkshire, England ($53,000 / yr)



This post was edited on 8/16 at 7:09 am


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LSURussian
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan








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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


Too poor to send your kids to Château de Rosey?





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LSURussian
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


No, too rich to waste time reading all that shite.....





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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


Well the packaging of the information might be a bit off, but there are few subjects more important than this when it comes to upcoming huge social/economic transformations of big industries. I'd say maybe health care is more crucial, and that's about it, with fin-reg and telecom slightly behind in importance.





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Meauxjeaux
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


quote:

Well the packaging of the information might be a bit off, but there are few subjects more important than this when it comes to upcoming huge social/economic transformations of big industries. I'd say maybe health care is more crucial, and that's about it, with fin-reg and telecom slightly behind in importance.



Doc, really appreciate the effort, but America's so screwed that I hope most with kids are turning their attention to getting whatever they can get right now and bailing to some nice tropical isle to live out the next 100 years.






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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


quote:

I hope most with kids are turning their attention to getting whatever they can get right now and bailing to some nice tropical isle to live out the next 100 years.


Ha! Believe me, I've thought about this, and have considered things like how feasible it would be to open up a quant finance / banking school somewhere like the Caymans, or whether or not a prep academy might be opened in some crazy place like Ghana or Botswana or Zimbabwe. Ideally, however, I think the Gulf Coast is the place I want to be.

As for the order of all this stuff, the best I can imagine, it has to go like this:

#1. work on elite prize competitions first and foremost--things like the AMC. that's the only way to distinguish a school from the rest of the crowd these days.

#2. wait until a modularized system of MOOCs is up and running, which will take some time. this is where industry certification standards and collegiate accreditation organizations will come into play. you just have to wait for all this painfully slow regulatory change to take place, for all the people to fill in the gaps with these massive online courses & tutorials, and then you just fill in the niche with little schools where students preparing for these types of massive online tests can congregate.

#3. integrate schooling across grades K-12, so you can weave in a coherent cultural/historical perspective that you're trying to teach. that's where schools can become more like hillsdale and grove city in sticking to particular principles and virtues that they would like to teach alongside the more objective MOOCs--but it would have to be an almost separate side-by-side curriculum, because cultural inculcation can't be graded. it has to be socially ingrained through pass/fail activities.

#4. then you might be able to scale the model to something bigger than just a school, like starting a new Caribbean microstate or something crazy like that... but that's where it all gets hazy.






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reverendotis
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


quote:

Ha! Believe me, I've thought about this, and have considered things like how feasible it would be to open up a quant finance / banking school somewhere like the Caymans, or whether or not a prep academy might be opened in some crazy place like Ghana or Botswana or Zimbabwe. Ideally, however, I think the Gulf Coast is the place I want to be. 


Indian Reservation FTW






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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


quote:

Indian Reservation FTW


I never thought of that!

Jim Thorpe's Carlisle Indian Industrial School closed down in 1918. Somebody needs to make a Carlisle II on an Indian Reservation somewhere, except that it admits more black athletes, Chinese programmers, and Korean mathematicians.






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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


Also, fwiw, here's a list of recognized accreditation associations of higher learning, including higher education accreditation in the United States, and the 6 big regional accreditation organizations:

Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
* (NEASC-CIHE) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
* (NEASC-CTCI) Commission on Technical and Career Institutions
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)
* (HLC Higher Learning Commission)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
* (WASC-ACCJC) Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
* (WASC-ACSCU) Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities







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Doc Fenton
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


Accreditation doesn't seem to be necessary for private prep schools: LINK.

Some articles I haven't read but will come back to sometime later:
Business Insider (Oct. 16, 2012): " The 50 Most Expensive Boarding Schools In America"
Huffington Post (Aug. 8, 2012): " 10 Of The Most Expensive Schools In The World"
Business Insider (Sept. 21, 2011): " The 37 Most Expensive Boarding Schools In America"
Forbes (Dec. 11, 2006): " America's Most Expensive Prep Schools"






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Jcorye1
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re: Ben Nelson is starting up the Minerva Project without a real business plan


I agree with a lot of what you said. I basically got an Accounting Degree just to get enough knowledge to take the Cpa, but I will still need the program. Code Academy is awesome and I completely recommend it for anyone who wants to learn coding.





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