Vespasiano

Founders College, R.I.P.?

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But if the reception hadn't been so hostile, then a freshman class of a hundred or more, instead of less than twenty, would have been possible.
Do you know something concrete to make you say this: for example, do you know of say 3-4 people who were seriously considering this and ready to spend the money, but were turned away primarily by the negative publicity?

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Do you know something concrete to make you say this: for example, do you know of say 3-4 people who were seriously considering this and ready to spend the money, but were turned away primarily by the negative publicity?

Well, they wouldn't be ready to enlist and pay money, if they were already swayed by the publicity. But I do know even more than 3-4 young people that were interested, from the beginning, but the interest waned when they've seen so much hostility around it. Even I who in general supported the school's idea and thought of whether I'd enroll were I younger, I was not sure and thought I'd rather wait it out and see where the school went, believing that maybe I didn't know the whole story and maybe there truly was something nefarious about the institution that only insiders would know.

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I am beginning to think that philosophers are not good at business.

I don't know much about Founders College or its beginnings, but I think the way to go about building a successful liberal arts college with an Objectivist (or at least rational) philosophical bent is to start with an existing moderately successful business or trades-oriented university and expand upon it. There is a lot of inertia in the academic world, and lots of administration required to maintain accreditation and public credibility. It would seem to me to be easier to raise funds to acquire an existing school with an existing student base not dependent on or even known for liberal arts, and add a rational liberal arts program to it. Of course, it requires a bigger cash outlay upfront. Another, less capital-intensive possibility is starting small by taking over a struggling liberal arts college (and hence more amenable to new management and change), turning it around by correcting the things that the existing management got wrong, and changing the curriculum in the process. This would involve recruiting a good turnaround CEO and management team, of which the likely source is the middle market.

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Lastly, if Objectivism does not give one the insight on how to run a company what will?

Good business instincts and know-how. If we look at good CEOs and management teams, we'll find a diverse array of philosophies. There are Mormons who are good businessmen (JW Marriott and Mitt Romney). There are Jews who are good businessmen (Pritzkers). There are Catholics who are good entrepreneurs (WR Grace and Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan). And there are probably good atheists and Objectivists who are good businessmen, but they might be harder to identify since many are "in the closet" because of prevailing attitudes in this country.

While I think that good business skills are compatible with Objectivism, I don't think Objectivism is a pre-requisite to good business skills, or that following Objectivism alone is enough to ensure good business skills. I think a lot of good businessmen don't think about philosophy all that much, and that a successful Objectivist college would look first to finding management team that is good rather than one that is a "philosophically pure." Certainly a good Objectivist needs to be part of the team, but that's more important for the head of the curriculum and/or faculty rather than for the head of the business office.

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If philosophy is the science that comes before all the other sciences then a rational philosophy should help guide one in what is correct in all other areas of one's life.

Philosophy does come before all other sciences, but it doesn't explain all other sciences. Philosophy is not a deductive field. Or shouldn't be.

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If philosophy is the science that comes before all the other sciences then a rational philosophy should help guide one in what is correct in all other areas of one's life.

Philosophy does come before all other sciences, but it doesn't explain all other sciences. Philosophy is not a deductive field. Or shouldn't be.

Look again at my statements, I stated is should help guide.

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Lastly, if Objectivism does not give one the insight on how to run a company what will?

Good business instincts and know-how. If we look at good CEOs and management teams, we'll find a diverse array of philosophies. There are Mormons who are good businessmen (JW Marriott and Mitt Romney). There are Jews who are good businessmen (Pritzkers). There are Catholics who are good entrepreneurs (WR Grace and Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan). And there are probably good atheists and Objectivists who are good businessmen, but they might be harder to identify since many are "in the closet" because of prevailing attitudes in this country.

While I think that good business skills are compatible with Objectivism, I don't think Objectivism is a pre-requisite to good business skills, or that following Objectivism alone is enough to ensure good business skills. I think a lot of good businessmen don't think about philosophy all that much, and that a successful Objectivist college would look first to finding management team that is good rather than one that is a "philosophically pure." Certainly a good Objectivist needs to be part of the team, but that's more important for the head of the curriculum and/or faculty rather than for the head of the business office.

There is no such thing as "instincts" and the "know-how" comes from being tied to reality. If you study good to great CEO's you might see that while in business they were tied to reality and facts. Yes, a lot of them were religious, but their religion was not what allowed them to make proper choices while at the office. And that knowledge comes from reading hundreds of autobiographies/biographies on many different people to include Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Eastman, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Adolph Coors, Estee Lauder, Alfred L. Loomis, Andrew Carnegie, Mary K. Ash, Ken Iverson, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Lou Gerstner, Andy Grove, Lee Iacoca, Henry Kaiser, Will Kellogg, Ray Kroc, Cyrus McCormick, J. P. Morgan, Thomas Watson, Sr., Thomas Watson, Jr., Jack Welch, Sam Walton, E. H. Harriiman, James J. Hill and so many more that I cannot remember all of them.

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Do you know something concrete to make you say this: for example, do you know of say 3-4 people who were seriously considering this and ready to spend the money, but were turned away primarily by the negative publicity?

Well, they wouldn't be ready to enlist and pay money, if they were already swayed by the publicity. But I do know even more than 3-4 young people that were interested, from the beginning, but the interest waned when they've seen so much hostility around it. Even I who in general supported the school's idea and thought of whether I'd enroll were I younger, I was not sure and thought I'd rather wait it out and see where the school went, believing that maybe I didn't know the whole story and maybe there truly was something nefarious about the institution that only insiders would know.

I was not involved with Founders until May of last year and so cannot speak to the effect negative publicity/commentary had on recruitment. If Free Capitalist says there were at least some people disuaded by that, then I believe him. However, there was a much more basic issue involved.

To my knowledge, although some student recruitment had been going on during the winter months of 2006-2007, it really couldn't happen in earnest until other basic components were in place, such as naming the CEO and other administrators, hiring faculty, etc. My understanding is that most faculty were hired between March and June of last year, and were not announced publicly until July. Most students have to commit to a college by March or April 1st.

So, you had a situation in which relatively limited student recruitment could and did occur, you had to sell prospective students (and, more importantly, their parents) on a school that was not accredited, with no clearly identified faculty, after the deadline for acceptance to most other schools. It is actually quite an accomplishment that Founders got the quality of students they did given those circumstances. These are very bright and unique young men and women, and it was a pleasure getting to know and teach them.

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Lastly, if Objectivism does not give one the insight on how to run a company what will?

Good business instincts and know-how. If we look at good CEOs and management teams, we'll find a diverse array of philosophies. There are Mormons who are good businessmen (JW Marriott and Mitt Romney). There are Jews who are good businessmen (Pritzkers). There are Catholics who are good entrepreneurs (WR Grace and Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan). And there are probably good atheists and Objectivists who are good businessmen, but they might be harder to identify since many are "in the closet" because of prevailing attitudes in this country.

While I think that good business skills are compatible with Objectivism, I don't think Objectivism is a pre-requisite to good business skills, or that following Objectivism alone is enough to ensure good business skills. I think a lot of good businessmen don't think about philosophy all that much, and that a successful Objectivist college would look first to finding management team that is good rather than one that is a "philosophically pure." Certainly a good Objectivist needs to be part of the team, but that's more important for the head of the curriculum and/or faculty rather than for the head of the business office.

There is no such thing as "instincts" and the "know-how" comes from being tied to reality. If you study good to great CEO's you might see that while in business they were tied to reality and facts. Yes, a lot of them were religious, but their religion was not what allowed them to make proper choices while at the office. And that knowledge comes from reading hundreds of autobiographies, ...

I agree with most of your post but I do think 'instinct' has something to do with it. The blank slate isn't entirely accurate. Biology plays a role.

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I agree with most of your post but I do think 'instinct' has something to do with it. The blank slate isn't entirely accurate. Biology plays a role.
Then please define your usage of the term "instinct." What most people would call "instinct" I would call learned experiences. So, when it comes to making quick, integrated choices they do so without much effort. But, I would not give "instinct" any further validity than that. Finally, although some studies show that some people have a larger capacity for learning (biological role) that does not mean they are born with the knowledge already intact. That would be like stating that I was born with the ability to run a business, do math, understand science, play football and so on, I disagree.

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...But I do know even more than 3-4 young people that were interested, from the beginning, but the interest waned when they've seen so much hostility around it.
Okay, if those people were serious rather than just interested, perhaps you're right in your estimate. I was just curious as to how you guessed at 100 Objectivist students.

My guess would have been that even if ARI were to suddenly convert its OAC to a college charging that amount of money and offering similar subjects, they would be hard-pressed to get 100 Objectivist students in their first year. For instance, many students of the right age range are pursuing careers that would not fit that curriculum. Secondly, it would be quite normal, for most people to wait a year to see how things play out.

It seems to me that the people who ran founders realized that they could not fill their numbers from Objectivist students. They realized they had to appeal to a broader audience.

It is a guess either way, but to my mind the first year was bound to have low recruitment, and a businessplan that did not take that into account would be overly optimistic. No special criticism of Founders here. A lot of start-ups are overly optimistic and short of working capital to tide them over the starting period. Sometimes, that's all they have, and since it's that or nothing, they take the dive and hope figure out a way to survive.

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Do you know something concrete to make you say this: for example, do you know of say 3-4 people who were seriously considering this and ready to spend the money, but were turned away primarily by the negative publicity?

Well, they wouldn't be ready to enlist and pay money, if they were already swayed by the publicity. But I do know even more than 3-4 young people that were interested, from the beginning, but the interest waned when they've seen so much hostility around it. Even I who in general supported the school's idea and thought of whether I'd enroll were I younger, I was not sure and thought I'd rather wait it out and see where the school went, believing that maybe I didn't know the whole story and maybe there truly was something nefarious about the institution that only insiders would know.

Imagine if everyone did this, there would be nothing new, or very little, that was ever created or started. It is a good thing that Dagny Taggart and other real heroes relied on their own judgement and just moved forward without concern for what others thought.

"I am thinking of starting this business on this idea of replacing horses as our main transportation with the automoblie. It has a combustion engine that powers a drive-train that spins the wheels that allows a person to go much faster than a horse.

What, it has a burning engine! No way, I am not investing in that. I think I will wait and see how many people you kill with your so called automoblie."

Of course my example is just a hypothetical situation, but it could apply to any new idea/situation.

"Courage and confidence are practical necessities … courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to truth, and confidence is the practical form of being true to one's own consciousness." [Ayn Rand, Galt's speech, For the New Intellectual, 129]

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Lastly, if Objectivism does not give one the insight on how to run a company what will?

Good business instincts and know-how. If we look at good CEOs and management teams, we'll find a diverse array of philosophies.

If this is the case than why not just read Adam Smith and instead of Objectivism practice moral sentimentalism? Instead of holding rationality, integrity, pride, honesty, independence, productiveness and justice as virtues, why not replace them with prudence, frugality, industry and justice?

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...I was not sure and thought I'd rather wait it out and see where the school went, believing that maybe I didn't know the whole story and maybe there truly was something nefarious about the institution that only insiders would know.
Imagine if everyone did this, there would be nothing new, or very little, ...
And yet Ray, this is the norm. For any new product, one gets relatively few "early adopters". I don't think one can say in general that anyone who is not an early adopter is wrong; on the contrary, a lot of early adopter get burned. Yet, new innovations happen all the time.

[We're probably starying a bit from the original topic.]

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I agree with most of your post but I do think 'instinct' has something to do with it. The blank slate isn't entirely accurate. Biology plays a role.
Then please define your usage of the term "instinct." What most people would call "instinct" I would call learned experiences. So, when it comes to making quick, integrated choices they do so without much effort. But, I would not give "instinct" any further validity than that. Finally, although some studies show that some people have a larger capacity for learning (biological role) that does not mean they are born with the knowledge already intact. That would be like stating that I was born with the ability to run a business, do math, understand science, play football and so on, I disagree.

People's brains are wired differently. Give two children virtually identical experiences growing up and they will develop differently. It isn't that they are "born" with certain knowledge, but they are born with brains capable of developing in different ways. That's what I mean by "instincts."

Relating this back to Founder's College, it's quite possible that the team in charge of running the place just didn't have the skills necessary to get that particular college off the ground. Whether they lacked business skills because of their life experiences or because their brains were naturally pre-disposed to a different type of knowledge is somewhat irrelevant. My point is that someone looking to revive this idea might well be advised to seek out people who have proven themselves to be good administrators and leaders who also happen to have value systems not fundamentally incompatible with the school's philosophy, rather than seeking out "pure" Objectivists who happen to have some experience as administrators or managers.

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If this is the case than why not just read Adam Smith and instead of Objectivism practice moral sentimentalism? Instead of holding rationality, integrity, pride, honesty, independence, productiveness and justice as virtues, why not replace them with prudence, frugality, industry and justice?

There's a difference between what's desirable and what is. I'm not saying it wouldn't be desirable to have more Objectivist business leaders, or that we shouldn't teach Objectivist ideals to potential business leaders. I'm saying that the fact of the matter is, there are lots of examples of successful businessmen who practice philosophies other than Objectivism. Maybe if we dig a little we'll see in them certain traits and characteristics compatible with Objectivism, or other rational ideas, or maybe if we imparted Objectivist ideals in them we would see them approach their businesses a bit differently. Regardless, my point, as I've reiterated here, is that to build a successful university, the most important trait in the CEO or development director may well not be that person's philosophical "purity." That's not to say it's irrelevant, or that the university should hire someone with values fundamentally contrary to Objectivism. It is to say that a university that limits itself to the pool of Objectivists might find that they are overlooking the most qualified potential candidate.

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It is to say that a university that limits itself to the pool of Objectivists might find that they are overlooking the most qualified potential candidate.

I think it would be a mistake to only look among academics for the role of administrator/managers of a business. As a point of actual fact, academics, including Objectivist academics, are usually poor businessmen, more so than average IMO. Many of them rationalistically do not understand the simplest of economic principles, e.g. maximization of total profit is *not* generally maximization of individual unit profit (unless it's something uniquely constructed, like original paintings) - in other words, selling poorly made tape cassettes for hundreds of dollars will sell a few copies at a high margin, but the overall results are poor. It would be much better to spend another couple of bucks on superior media and sell the tapes at a price that will appeal to many more individuals including the strapped students who most benefit from the material, at a lower unit profit but a higher ultimate total profit. Yet this simple principle - which applies as well to student tuition for example - is not grasped by many academics.

Objectivist businessmen exist, probably many more than Objectivist academics, but they are generally not nearly as visible or well known.

This is an extension of the principle that anybody employed in an Objectivism-based college should be subject matter experts; including managers.

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...I was not sure and thought I'd rather wait it out and see where the school went, believing that maybe I didn't know the whole story and maybe there truly was something nefarious about the institution that only insiders would know.
Imagine if everyone did this, there would be nothing new, or very little, ...
And yet Ray, this is the norm. For any new product, one gets relatively few "early adopters". I don't think one can say in general that anyone who is not an early adopter is wrong; on the contrary, a lot of early adopter get burned. Yet, new innovations happen all the time.

[We're probably starying a bit from the original topic.]

I am not saying that most people do not do what you have stated. But, that is also why most will never know greatness nor great wealth and the pride that comes from facing huge challenges and overcoming them. It is easy to buy into an idea when all the initial problems have been worked out and hence why the rewards are much smaller. Greatness requires risk, planned risk, but risk just the same.

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People's brains are wired differently. Give two children virtually identical experiences growing up and they will develop differently. It isn't that they are "born" with certain knowledge, but they are born with brains capable of developing in different ways. That's what I mean by "instincts."

Relating this back to Founder's College, it's quite possible that the team in charge of running the place just didn't have the skills necessary to get that particular college off the ground. Whether they lacked business skills because of their life experiences or because their brains were naturally pre-disposed to a different type of knowledge is somewhat irrelevant. My point is that someone looking to revive this idea might well be advised to seek out people who have proven themselves to be good administrators and leaders who also happen to have value systems not fundamentally incompatible with the school's philosophy, rather than seeking out "pure" Objectivists who happen to have some experience as administrators or managers.

People's brains are not wired differntly, per se. The genes of the human brain are responsible for the fundamental orginaization of the brain. But, an enormous amount of neuronal growth that leads to mental connections is influenced by experience which means our brains have a lot of "plasticity." It is estimated that there are around 10 trillion synaptic connections in the human brain and these could not have been pre-determined by our genes.

There are many obstacles that have to be overcome for a start-up company to survive. Two of the biggest obstacles are funds and knowledge/skills. Money will be the key limiting factor as without a lot of funding people will have to take on positions they will have to grow into as the company cannot afford those that do have the knowledge. This problem is not abnormal for a start-up. Michael Dell did not have the knowledge he has now when he was making computers in his dorm room. Cornelius Vanderbilt did not have the same amount of knowledge to run a company when he bought his first boat at the age of 16 compared to when he sold his boats and bought trains 53 years later. Sam Walton was over a million dollars in personal debt when he finally took Wal-Mart public. Jack Welch had (and has) a Ph.D. in engineering and not business but was still choosen to run GE. Henry Ford was considered to be just a tinkerer, but built one of the greatest car companies of the early 20th century.

If someone is waiting around for the "perfect" scenario for starting a company they will die first. A start-up will not have the ability to have a Jack Welch as their CEO, they will not have unlimited money for public relations/advertisement, they will not have all the skills nor the personel needed to accomplish every task at the beginning. And that is why when the start-up makes it through those initial problems they should be applauded. But, even if they do not make it, they should be applauded for at least attempting a truly demanding task when all that the "arm chair CEOs" do is criticize.

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So here we have the final word. According to this article, Founders College failed and the students were left high and dry because of inadequate government oversight (that is, unless I misread the article)(Found via boortz.com.) The comments are a hoot.

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So here we have the final word. According to this article, Founders College failed and the students were left high and dry because of inadequate government oversight (that is, unless I misread the article)(Found via boortz.com.) The comments are a hoot.

This article, and many of its comments, is nothing but a victory dance of the Left over the grave of Founder's College. Why even bother reading it?

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This article, and many of its comments, is nothing but a victory dance of the Left over the grave of Founder's College. Why even bother reading it?

I haven't read the comments, but I would not say that that's an accurate summary of the article. The writer probably has a Lefty bias but it focuses on presenting the facts of what happened (assuming that these are actual facts), which are entirely consistent with other reports. I saw failure in this project from the get-go, personally, simply based on prior knowledge of the people running it. There was a lot of wishful thinking surrounding it but clearly it was a bungled enterprise before it ever even opened its doors. A number of innocents (largely, students) got badly burned as well as many creditors, and the association of the mismanagement with Objectivism is very bad. Nor did it have to happen that way, as evidenced, for example, by the polar opposite (from what I've heard) professional approach of Peter LePort's schools in California - though for some odd reason, I virtually never hear that particular success story discussed.

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This article, and many of its comments, is nothing but a victory dance of the Left over the grave of Founder's College. Why even bother reading it?

I haven't read the comments, but I would not say that that's an accurate summary of the article. The writer probably has a Lefty bias but it focuses on presenting the facts of what happened (assuming that these are actual facts), which are entirely consistent with other reports. I saw failure in this project from the get-go, personally, simply based on prior knowledge of the people running it. There was a lot of wishful thinking surrounding it but clearly it was a bungled enterprise before it ever even opened its doors. A number of innocents (largely, students) got badly burned as well as many creditors, and the association of the mismanagement with Objectivism is very bad. Nor did it have to happen that way, as evidenced, for example, by the polar opposite (from what I've heard) professional approach of Peter LePort's schools in California - though for some odd reason, I virtually never hear that particular success story discussed.

The article gives a mostly dispassionate summary of the details--and presuming the details are accurate, I do at least appreciate this display of objective journalism--but the theme of the article is that this was a failure of government oversight, and the solution is to have a larger, more powerful government, with a more aggressive role in college education.

In that sense, I called it "a victory dance of the Left over the grave of Founders College".

Sections such as this

As strange as the particulars of Founders College are, they do raise questions about just what the standards are for opening a college. To some extent, the bar is necessarily low. A new college is, after all, unproven—and if a state is going to allow for innovation, it has to allow for failure.

But a college isn't like a barber writing hot checks all over town, or a restaurant that's poorly managed. College is something more—a promise of an education, of a degree with value in the marketplace, and, for students, of a place that has their best interest at heart. "For crying out loud," says Marshall Hill, executive director of Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, "if we don't want consumer protection in higher education, we're nuts."

and this
The Virginia higher-education council says that it received one complaint about the college, but that it was from an employee, and the council does not have authority to investigate personnel matters. It received no complaints from students; many don't appear to have known whom to complain to.

In a way, that's the biggest limitation of state oversight. State agencies, people in the field say, don't have the manpower, the resources, or often the authority, to go digging unless a complaint gives them reason to. If the Virginia council doesn't receive any student complaints, it visits each of the 340-plus colleges it authorizes only once every three years. A lot can happen in that time, but even that frequency is onerous for the council, says Ms. Woodley.

Founders College closed in November 2008. The state never stepped in.

seem rather explicit in their intended effect on the reader.

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As strange as the particulars of Founders College are, they do raise questions about just what the standards are for opening a college. To some extent, the bar is necessarily low. A new college is, after all, unproven—and if a state is going to allow for innovation, it has to allow for failure.

But a college isn't like a barber writing hot checks all over town, or a restaurant that's poorly managed. College is something more—a promise of an education, of a degree with value in the marketplace, and, for students, of a place that has their best interest at heart. "For crying out loud," says Marshall Hill, executive director of Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, "if we don't want consumer protection in higher education, we're nuts."

The above is essentially stating "the University and the degree it offers is such an important and unique commodity that it can't be risked to operate in a free-market".

When I read this

State agencies, people in the field say, don't have the manpower, the resources, or often the authority, to go digging unless a complaint gives them reason to...
all I can hear is Wesley Mouch saying "I need wider powers!"

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A sad story. ;) I think the people in charge were flat-out incompetent at business. Maybe the owner (who was...?) should have hired a hard-nosed financial guy who was NOT Objectivist or classical liberal -- but who knew how to balance books, pinch pennies, and get things done. I think having 5 professors is enough (barely). But 10 students is wildly unacceptable. Gotta have at least 50 to 100 (with 5 to 10 per class) to create the right social dynamic and financial base. Lacking that, Founders College should have refused to open until it had enough students/customers.

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