Ben Nelson says the primary purpose of a university isn’t to prepare students for a career. It’s to prepare them for life. And he now has $70 million to prove his point.
Nelson is the founder and CEO of a new experiment in higher education called Minerva Project. He says when it comes to learning, job training is the easy part. With the emergence of online courses, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to acquire the hard skills you need to land a job. “Why would you spend a quarter of a million dollars and four years to learn to code in Python?” he says. “If that’s the role of universities, you’d have to be insane to go to universities.”
But that doesn’t mean Nelson believes the country’s liberal arts colleges are doing a particularly terrific job either. He argues most schools do little more than teach students a core canon of information, a practice he says is archaic, given how much information people have access to these days. “Today, it’s absurd to say you need to know this information and without this information, you’re not an informed person,” he says.