Dear Commons Community,
The Chronicle of Higher Education has a second article today that critically examines the higher education policy approaches of the Gates Foundation, specifically, with regard to college completion, remediation and training for job skills. For example:
“… the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has financed studies that argue for broad-scale changes aimed at pushing more students, more quickly, toward graduation. Working alongside the Lumina Foundation through intermediaries like Complete College America and another nonprofit, Jobs for the Future, the Gates foundation has helped influence higher-education policy at the state level to a degree that may be unprecedented for a private foundation.
At a time when college budgets are strained from decades of cuts in state support, Gates grantees have urged lawmakers to allocate spending more efficiently, emphasizing the need for more students to graduate and presenting evidence that remedial courses hold them back…
Only about 58 percent of first-time, full-time students who start at a four-year college receive a bachelor’s degree from that college within six years. Most higher-education experts agree that that’s a problem.
But some object to the way Gates and legislators have gone about tackling the issue. The influence of a major foundation and its grantees in state policy discussions makes some experts uncomfortable, since as a private entity Gates is not accountable to voters. They contend that the strategy bypasses colleges themselves and imposes top-down solutions, seeking quick fixes for complicated problems.
“You create this whole hyped-up, get-it-done-fast mentality,” says Debra Humphreys, vice president for policy and public engagement for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Association officials have argued that the completion agenda being pushed by the Gates foundation doesn’t pay enough attention to educational quality, and that it focuses too narrowly on getting students through as quickly as possible.
Gates officials say they’re merely making sure states get the data they need to make smart policy decisions. Working at a state level allows the foundation to reach more students than they could with a small pilot program, they point out. And they say that rather than bypassing academic experts, they are shining a national spotlight on those with workable solutions that can be broadly applied.”
This article goes on to provide other examples and is a good companion piece to another Chronicle article on The Gates Effect. Both articles are important contributions to the discussion of venture philanthropy’s influence on education policy.. The articles could have explored more the attitude of Gates, its corporate, political and media partners toward faculty and teachers. For the most part, Gates and its collaborators have a clandestine war going on against anything to do with shared governance and collective bargaining.