ERIC Number: EJ903526
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Nov
Reference Count: 0
Gates's Millions: Can Big Bucks Turn Students into Graduates?
Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, v76 n3 p4-9 Nov 2010
In the last year, advocacy groups have churned out reports on how all kinds of students--those who work, are minorities, attend less-selective colleges, or come from low-income families--struggle in higher education. They have talked about the needs of the modern workforce, and how the United States is falling behind. All coalesced around the same point: Not enough students are graduating from college. Another thing the studies had in common: All were paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The reports are part of an aggressive push by the foundation to convince the public that the U.S. has a college-dropout problem. People have been so focused on access, and had this mentality of students' right to fail, that there's little understanding of how much churn hurts institutions and the students they're trying to serve. Changing that is part of the three-pronged strategy that has emerged since the foundation officially entered the postsecondary sphere, in late 2008. It casts the organization as both vocal critic and white knight. Not all those in higher education are sure they want the Gates foundation's brand of rescue. Few people openly criticize the foundation, but privately some worry that its approach to postsecondary reform is too top-down and too systematic. The most outspoken critics of the foundation's education work, however, have faulted its market-based approach to elementary and secondary schools. Others, of course, welcome the help. Many college leaders say the foundation is bringing attention to a neglected sector of higher education. The Gates foundation aims to double the proportion of low-income Americans who earn a postsecondary credential by age 26. To get there, the philanthropy is focusing grants on community colleges, where more than half of students come from families earning less than $40,000 a year. The foundation is also supporting efforts to increase low-income students' access to financial aid and information about attending college. And it is financing work to identify and test practices that improve students' outcomes, particularly in remedial math. Throughout, the philanthropy is exploring how technology could enhance quality and reduce costs. While gathering evidence of good practices is a piece of its work, the foundation is not pushing for a uniform system. Much of its money is going to expand programs started on campuses themselves. It's easy to see the group's move into higher education as a natural extension of its work in high schools. There, the foundation has focused on improving teaching but also on increasing options for families. Higher education in the U.S., however, is already a market, and its primary federal support looks a lot like vouchers. But the foundation has concluded that the market isn't working because students don't have enough information--and because many lack real choice.
Descriptors: Higher Education, Access to Information, At Risk Students, Dropouts, Private Financial Support, Low Income Groups, College Graduates, Graduation Rate, Financial Support, Philanthropic Foundations, Grants
Prakken Publications. 832 Phoenix Drive, P.O. Box 8623, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Tel: 734-975-2800; Fax: 734-975-2787; Web site: http://www.eddigest.com/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A