Home American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment Bill Gates Throws Down the Gauntlet to Higher Education
Bill Gates Throws Down the Gauntlet to Higher Education

Bill Gates Throws Down the Gauntlet to Higher Education

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Improving Education“Colleges need to hold themselves more responsible, or someone else will.”

That statement came from Microsoft founder Bill Gates during his keynote address this week at the National Association of College and University Business Officers’ (NACUBO) annual meeting in Seattle earlier this week.

Speaking on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he urged the more than 3,000 financial officers in attendance to become more transparent by disclosing how much they spend on athletics, expensive dormitories, and administrators whose roles do not directly benefit students. He said it’s almost impossible to compare one university to another, unlike corporate companies in the same sector that can be compared by analyzing their financial statements.

According to Doug Lederman and Ry Rivard of Inside Higher Ed, Gates also warned the audience about the White House’s attempt to create a “simplistic” college scorecard by focusing on completion rates and jobs. He’s concerned that some of the proposed performance funding models for higher education will force open-enrollment institutions, similar to community colleges and those operated by for-profits, to “cherry pick” students and reduce access to higher education for students who need to improve their earnings potential. Gates stated that the for-profit sector has developed excellent student-tracking and support services, while dealing with a student population that is different than the traditional college crowd.

Gates criticized Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), stating that most are “mediocre” and “useful for only the most motivated students.” He also predicted, however, that MOOCs will morph into usage similar to a college textbook, with the best instructors in the world providing the lectures for course content and students using the MOOC lecture to assist their learning with other instructors. He further stated that automation of courses is not the answer, and an educated instructor will continue to be the best way of guiding a student’s learning.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the Gates Foundation spent $500 million on higher education projects. American Public University System has been directly involved with some of them, such as the Predictive Analytics Reporting framework (PAR) and Adaptive Learning, and applauds other initiatives to explore learning outcomes and technology on a scale not usually seen in higher education.

Gates may be the most visible lifelong learner in America. Improving education for all is one of his passions and clearly part of the mission of his foundation. In his opening statement, he noted, “It is ironic that academic institutions are so good at studying the world around them, but not themselves” (Inside Higher Ed). This may be his motivating challenge to college and university business officers. How quickly they respond to his call to action could be the difference between institutional survival and failure.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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