Elon Musk plans to open a new university in Austin

ByKATE MCGEE, The Texas Tribune
Thursday, December 14, 2023
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas transplant Elon Musk is planning to start a university in Austin, according to tax filings for one of his charities first reported by Bloomberg News.

The charity, called The Foundation, plans to use a $100 million gift from Musk to create and launch a primary and secondary school in Austin focused on teaching science, technology, engineering, and math. Once it is fully operational, the filing states, the school will focus on creating a university. The school intends to seek accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, a necessary first step to launch the school.

According to the filing published by Bloomberg, the university would teach students in person "as well as using distance education technologies." It expects to start enrollment with 50 students and scale up over time. The school would fund its activities through donations and tuition fees, though the filing also states that if a student cannot pay tuition or fees, the school could provide financial aid. It is currently hiring an executive director, teachers and administrators, the filing states.

Musk's plan to start a new university in Austin - already home to the flagship University of Texas at Austin and multiple other private universities - comes just as another new private school in the city plans to officially open to students in the fall of 2024.

The University of Austin was launched two years ago by a group of higher education critics in response to their belief that U.S. college campuses were no longer a place where students and faculty can openly exchange ideas.

In a conversation with The Texas Tribune on Wednesday, University of Austin President Pano Kanelos said he hopes the school can be a champion for free speech and open inquiry.

"We're just living in a moment where things seem to be coming apart, where people seem to be pulled away from each other, where institutions seem to be shaking in their foundations," Kanelos said. "The best response is to build new things."

Musk's new university does not yet have a name. The Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Foundation's trustees include Jared Birchall, head of Musk's family office; Steven Chidester, a tax attorney at Withersworldwide; and Ronald Gong and Teresa Holland, who work at Catalyst Family Office in California, according to Bloomberg.

The Texas Tribune partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.

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