Domestic, Ethics, For-Profit, Investors, Not-for-Profit, Required, University & College - Written by on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:00 - 0 Comments

Book Review: Bill Gates’ on “Change.Edu” by Kaplan Chief Andrew S. Rosen

By Isaac Mao via Flickr under CreativeCommons

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reviews a book by Andrew S. Rosen, chief executive of Kaplan Inc., a for-profit educational services firm owned by The Washington Post Co.

In “Change.edu,” Andrew Rosen calls for greater relevance, access, accountability and transparency in higher education. He builds a persuasive case that many non-traditional students — such as working adults, parents and those at risk of dropping out — are not well served by traditional institutions. New approaches, he argues, are critical to ensure that more people have the opportunity to obtain college degrees.

The United States used to lead the world in the percentage of adults with college degrees, but has now fallen to 10th place. That’s partly because we have such a high dropout rate. While more than two-thirds of students who graduate from U.S. high schools attend college or pursue postsecondary training, barely one-third of those will end up getting a degree. Something is clearly broken.

This is especially worrisome because more than half of jobs today require a college education, and that trend will continue. By 2018, the demand for workers with college degrees will exceed the supply of college graduates by an estimated 3 million. Meanwhile, dropouts and workers with only a high school diploma will have an ever harder time finding fulfilling work.

Rosen starts his fairly brief and highly readable book with a quick history of post-secondary education in colonial times, when only the sons of wealthy Free Protestant families attended college. Then he describes the country’s embrace of universal secondary education and the benefits of the GI Bill after World War II, which allowed millions of returning veterans to attend college tuition-free.

To accommodate the country’s growing and increasingly educated population, a fledging collection of two-year colleges rapidly evolved in the second half of the 20th century into the current system of more than 1,000 community colleges. Rosen rounds off the historical survey with a look at the growth of for-profit colleges, including schools like the University of Phoenix, and several run by his own company, Kaplan.

Rosen notes that it is much easier for some students to get through college. He calls these students the “automatics” — they include the most talented and reasonably talented students who went to strong suburban or private schools. But they are not the norm.

To better meet the needs of all students, Rosen suggests creating a common yardstick based on seven risk factors identified by the U.S. Department of Education that make students less likely to graduate. Among these are delayed enrollment, no high school diploma, single-parent status and full-time employment while enrolled. Rosen maintains that these risk factors could be used to reasonably compare schools with similar populations and identify those that are doing the best job of helping students graduate and secure good jobs. This approach doesn’t capture all the key elements, in my view, because it leaves out one important factor — whether or not a student has a clear career goal in mind. But more transparency is a good thing.

….

There is more than a little irony in the fact that students from better-off families tend to go to private non-profit schools subsidized by endowments or to public institutions subsidized by taxpayers, while many low-income students end up attending for-profit schools with the least subsidy, which means they must assume proportionately higher burdens of student loan debt. Without question, for-profit schools must do better at graduating students with a degree that is valuable in the marketplace.

For all institutions — public, non-profit and for-profit — better measurement is essential to increasing graduation rates and success in the workplace. I am in radical agreement with Rosen that data can and should be used to motivate schools to improve, and that greater transparency and accountability will encourage students and government funders to support the institutions that demonstrate the best outcomes. We should hold all institutions of higher learning accountable for results, and find easier ways to identify and support the best among them.

Bill Gates is the co-founder and chairman of Microsoft and the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His other book reviews and essays may be found at TheGatesNotes.com.

Via The Washington Post

 



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