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Trump throws open the virtual door

University is entrepreneur's latest venture

By Ian Grayson for CNN

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Trump says the seeds of learning can grow almost anywhere.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Kellogg, U.S.
3. Chicago GSB, U.S.
4. Stern, NY, U.S.
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Hong Kong UST, China
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
9. London Business School, UK
10. Tanaka, Imperial College, UK
Source: Financial Times 2005

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EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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Donald Trump
University of Pennsylvania
Education

(CNN) -- He's built a property empire, runs casinos and even has his own reality TV show. Now Donald Trump has set his sights on the business education market.

Earlier this year the flamboyant U.S. businessman threw open the virtual doors to his latest venture -- Trump University.

The Web-based facility offers a range of courses in the areas of marketing, real estate, entrepreneurship and wealth creation.

While not a university in the true sense, because it offers no degrees or diplomas, the venture is a serious play in a market many believe will continue to enjoy healthy growth around the world.

Trump is using his name, which was given increased recognition through the television show "The Apprentice," to entice would-be business people to come to him for advice, training and an insight into how the business world works.

The courses on offer cost from about $300 and provide participants with online video tutorials, contact with faculty members and interaction with other students. Each course starts on a set date and students are expected to work through a series of exercises over a two-week period.

While top business schools such as INSEAD, London Business School and Stanford are not concerned about the new competition, the model chosen by Trump could spark renewed interest in the concept of Internet-delivered learning.

Not surprisingly, Trump is bullish about the venture and believes it will allow more people to gain an understanding of the essentials needed to be successful in business.

"The seeds of learning can grow almost anywhere. Trump University and my other education-related ventures like "The Apprentice" are about access for all," Trump says in a Web-based discussion forum.

"In a sense, my approach to education is the opposite of my approach to real estate. The apartments and offices I build aren't cheap, so there's an element of exclusivity there, but Trump University is meant to be inclusive. A contradiction? I don't know, but so what if it is?"

Trump, who is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, sees his offerings as complementary to high school and college education. While he won't handle the day-to-day operations of the university, he plans to include video instructional sessions in each course offered.

University president and co-founder Michael Sexton says students will log on to the university Web site, read and watch the content and then undertake exercises together with other students in their virtual classroom. Peer review of assignments is also encouraged.

While there won't be any traditional lectures, students will be able to view video presentations of their course leaders and post questions that might even be answered by Trump himself.

Other faculty members include author and adjunct professor of entrepreneurial studies at Columbia Business School, Jack Kaplan, and professor of real estate at the Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth, John Vogel.

The courses are not designed to provide content similar to that given at real-world business schools. Some observers have likened the courses to an online version of Robert Kiyosaki's best-selling book "Rich Dad -- Poor Dad" which offers fundamental instruction in the basics of finance.

Trump acknowledges the courses are very practical in nature and focused on fundamentals, but points out that this is exactly what people starting out in a business career are seeking. He believes that, by following the step-by-step guides covered in the courses, students will be encouraged to start their own ventures.

"Education is a large part of the process of getting ahead. Most people realize this, and those who genuinely want to succeed are often the hungriest to learn," he says.

Trump has backed the venture with his own money rather than opting for a financial partner. Sexton says the university expects to turn a profit within its first year of operation.

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