So you probably would not take advice about college education from a person who dropped out of school — unless, of course, that certain someone was Bill Gates.

The Microsoft co-founder who dropped out of Harvard to start his own company spoke about his concerns with the American higher education system Wednesday night at the Washington Ideas Forum.

Gates, who has a multitude of experience working on American education through his foundation, shared his thoughts on how the country needs to fix college financing and the disturbing college dropout rates.

It is certainly a problem that needs to be addressed. In the conversation, Gates said that colleges and universities need to reward schools who accept people with low SAT scores and educate them, instead of giving credit to schools who spend the most on resources and for their exclusivity. The focus, he says, needs to be on teaching quality and getting people to graduate.

Gates also wrote about this topic a few weeks ago, discussing a book that questions the quality of U.S. undergraduate education. Here’s how he ended the post:

I’m optimistic about the potential of innovation to help solve many of the problems with our post-secondary system. But we need more and better information. I’m reminded of a point made by Andrew Rosen of Kaplan, the for-profit education company, that colleges today know more about how many kids attend basketball games and which alumni give money than how many students showed up for economics class during the week, or which alumni are having a hard time meeting their career goals because of shortcomings in their education.

That needs to change.

Tough to argue with that.

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  • Guest

    Advice from a graduate: Shouldn’t the chairman of the board fix Microsoft’s own innovation and operational problems, which have resulted in a “lost decade”, before presuming to have the answers to the US Educational system’s?

    • lan

      Advice from another graduate. Stock price isn’t everything. MSFT has grown by $1B a year in net income over the past 10 years. That’s the same amount as Google.

      Does anyone complain about Google, Oracle or IBM’s ‘lost decade’?
      Would you prefer they matched Dell, HP, or Sony’s ‘growth’?
      Or maybe added less than a billion over the entire 10 years like Autodesk, Adobe or VMWare?

      Blowing off the thoughts of one of the most successful people of our time because of Microsoft’s stock price is ridiculous.

      • guest

        The stock’s 50% collapse is only one part of the “lost decade”. The more important part is MS’s decline in relevance and competitive position. Comparing MS’s addition of $1B a year in net income, starting from a large base and mostly from product battles won in the 90’s, to Google doing so starting from scratch is laughable.

        I stand by my point. If Gates can’t fix the now widely accepted innovation and operational problems of the company he founded, knows intimately, chairs, and where he has the most subject matter expertise, why would anyone think he has the answers to what ails the US educational system?

        • Guest

          Crooked logic.

  • Guest

    I’m so tired of the emphasis on college sports. It has reached a ridiculous
    level and it seems like the actual education attributes are massively deemphasized
    until the next college ranking gets published.

    Maybe I’m just a bit of a nerd and I don’t care about stick and ball sports but it sure seems like many, many colleges could do away with their athletic programs and/or truly make them intermural and be no worse for the wear.

  • Contrarianism

    Gates focus on education and immigration stems from own painful experience with a front row seat to MS’s 10+ yr long unprecedented brain drain.

    MS has functioned much like a college university incubating of some of the greatest minds in technology, then feeding its graduates into the tech ecosystem in both SF and PNW, where these grads have gone on to create some of the most innovative and disruptive products/companies on the planet. What has MS received in return for training and cultivating this talent? A business in decline has been their reward.

    Had MS been able to retain these minds we would be talking about MS with the same reverence as APPL or Amazon. The loss of talent at MS is shocking and the impact is being felt in a decade long lack of innovation, a flabby corperate culture, and a lagging stock price.

    You cannot compete in this industry without being able to retain and attract the best and brightest. MS is collapsing and their main product lines are failing, albeit slowly. Just slow enough that nobody notices. Just slow enough that nobody takes radical action to reverse the decline. The frog is boiling.


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