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Elon Musk wants to create new schools in Austin—from elementary to university—that he’s funding with a $100 million gift

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Elon Musk, who moved to Texas during the pandemic, is planning to start a university in Austin, according to tax filings for the billionaire’s latest charity called The Foundation. 

The new institution, seeded with a roughly $100 million gift from Musk, will start with a STEM-focused primary and secondary school. Once that’s operating, it “intends ultimately to expand its operations to create a university dedicated to education at the highest levels,” according to an application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status obtained by Bloomberg.

The university will employ “experienced faculty” and feature a traditional curriculum “alongside hands-on learning experience including simulations, case studies, fabrication/design projects and labs,” according to the application, which was filed in October 2022 and approved in March. It will seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Representatives for Musk didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

This isn’t the first time Musk, 52, has started a school or expressed interest in opening a university. About a decade ago, the Tesla Inc. co-founder created Ad Astra on SpaceX’s California campus for his five kids and a few children of his space company’s employees. When Musk moved to Texas in 2020, the school also moved.

Home to the University of Texas’ main campus, Austin has become of hotbed of higher-education innovation. The University of Austin, launched two years ago as an alternative to the “illiberalism” of traditional US colleges, plans to open in the fall with an initial class of 100 students. The school, backed by prominent people in academia and finance, including the historian Niall Ferguson, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, has raised about $200 million in private donations. 

Musk’s new STEM school was expecting an initial class of 50 students and looking to hire an executive director, teacher and administrator, according to the application. 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.

The billionaire sent $2.2 billion worth of Tesla stock to his Musk Foundation in 2022. Along with donating nearly $100 million to seed his newest charity, it also made gifts to disaster relief nonprofit World Central Kitchen, Khan Academy and a donor advised fund at Fidelity Charitable, according to its most recent tax forms.

Musk, the world’s richest person with a net worth of $220.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is also creating his own town outside of Austin, with recreational facilities, a school and subsidized housing for employees of Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Co., the Wall Street Journal reported in March. If approved, the municipality would occupy thousands of acres he’s acquired in recent years. 

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