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Rethinking what a college education looks like

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Harvard University
People walk outside Harvard Law School's Langdell Hall on May 10, 2010 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Ben Nelson has a new vision for higher education: Forget the ivy-covered buildings, mammoth libraries and state of the art rec centers.

Nelson, founder of the Minerva Project, has created a campus stripped down to one dorm and one building for instruction. No lectures are held there though;  instead, courses are taught in a seminar format.

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The Minerva boast is that it will strip the university experience down to the aspects that are shown to contribute directly to student learning. Lectures, gone. Tenure, gone. Gothic architecture, football, ivy crawling up the walls--gone, gone, gone. What's left will be leaner and cheaper. (Minerva has already attracted $25 million in capital from investors who think it can undercut the incumbents.) And Minerva officials claim that their methods will be tested against scientifically determined best practices, unlike the methods used at other universities and assumed to be sound just because the schools themselves are old and expensive. Yet because classes have only just begun, we have little clue as to whether the process of stripping down the university removes something essential to what has made America's best colleges the greatest in the world.

He joined The Daily Circuit along with Scott Gerber, the founder of YEC, to talk about reforming higher education and preparing college students for practical post-grad employment.

One caller expressed concern about Minerva's model and how it will support social responsibility: