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Can a Group of MIT Professors Turn a White Paper Into a New Kind of College?

Can a Group of MIT Professors Turn a White Paper Into a New Kind of College?


Jeffrey R. Young
November 17, 2022
A group of professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology dropped a provocative white paper in September that proposed a new kind of college that would address some of the growing public skepticism of higher education. This week, they took the next step toward bringing their vision from idea to reality.
That next step was holding a virtual forum that brought together a who’s who of college innovation leaders, including presidents of experimental colleges, professors known for novel teaching practices and critical observers of the higher education space.
The MIT professors who authored the white paper tried to make clear that even though they’re from an elite university, they do not have all the answers. Their white paper takes pains to describe itself as a draft framework and to invite input from players across the education ecosystem so they can revise and improve the plan.
Day one of the forum, which was held on Monday, was an invite-only discussion session with about 25 people, which EdSurge was invited to observe following Chatham House rules (which hold that participants can only be quoted by name if they give permission afterward). Then, on Tuesday, organizers led a public forum open to anyone, which drew more than 100 attendees (and had 250 registrants).
One key question that surfaced during the Monday meeting boiled down to this: What type of student does this new college—referred to at this point by the place-holder name, “New Educational Institution,” or NEI—intend to serve?
Several recent efforts to start experimental colleges from scratch have aimed squarely at students with high standardized test scores and strong academic preparation. That’s the case, for instance, for Minerva University, a private institution that uses a home-grown online teaching system and has a hybrid for-profit and nonprofit funding model, as well as the budding University of Austin, a startup college in Texas aimed at ensuring more viewpoint diversity.
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