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Philanthropy: Freedom to do good

Arthur Brooks and Bill Gates at AEI
Arthur Brooks and Bill Gates at AEI
James George

Having listened to Bill Gates speak about his philanthropic endeavors yesterday, reflecting, the inventor entrepreneur who found an opportune moment to address a global market need and acted with his intellect to invent a consumer product, and worked to become a leading capitalist. Now, is his time to do as other wealthy capitalists have done, to address philanthropic needs. It is his option, and not a requirement.

Bill Gates talking about his foundation initiatives at AEI
James George

“Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.”

At a time when the nation is in search of superior competence to produce a sustainable economy under a new energy paradigm with a good life for all citizens, capitalist Gates reminded:

“Capital invests in technology, not labor.”

  • These are not the worst of times. “This is the least volatile time in history.”
  • He fleetingly referred to America’s “job cycle problem.”
  • He poked at America’s deficient education system, and called for the pursuit of best in class examples.
  • He moaned that it is up to states to improve education, with some not believing in modern science, alluding to the disparity in education quality across the land.

Among those things, he demonstrated by example how a CEO thinks about placing investment bets on policies that can save people from the wrath of poverty and disease. Purusing problems far away, we all missed the opportunity to focus his genius on our national problems and priorities

You can’t herd cats, nor can you wealthy capitalists. They are free to do as they wish.
In North America, the Foundation addresses the following:

North America

  • College-Ready Education
  • Discovery & Translational Sciences
  • Emergency Response
  • Financial Services for the Poor
  • Global Libraries
  • Postsecondary Success
  • Washington State

Under “Postsecondary Success” there is this:

to ensure that all low-income young adults have affordable access to a quality postsecondary education that is tailored to their individual needs and educational goals and leads to timely completion of a degree or certificate with labor-market value.”

“The Challenge

A college education is the gateway to the American middle class, with college graduates earning substantially more than those without a degree. But low-income students are 28% less likely to finish college than those in higher income brackets, and the education gap is widening.

Poor college completion rates in the U.S. hurt the national economy. Only about half of those who enroll in a four-year institution earn a degree within six years, and barely 20% of those pursuing an associate degree earn one within three years.
The U.S. economy will need an estimated 22 million new college graduates by 2018 but will face a shortfall of at least 3 million.

The foundation works with educators, researchers, technologists, foundations, policymakers, and other partners to help public colleges and universities affordably and efficiently guide more low-income students to degree completion.

Our Postsecondary Success strategy, updated in 2012, is led by Daniel Greenstein, director, and is part of the foundation’s United States Division.

Public higher education in the United States is at a watershed moment. As education costs rise and colleges and universities face growing financial pressures, the education gap is widening and public student financial aid systems are getting stretched to the limit—all of this at a time when our economy needs more college-educated workers than ever before.

Left unabated, these trends will leave the U.S. economy without the skilled workforce it needs to remain competitive, and will likely increase the education gap between those from low-income backgrounds and the rest of the population. Given the role that higher education has historically played as an engine of social mobility and economic growth, the political and social implications for our nation, and particularly for lower-income people, are profound and unacceptable. They are also avoidable.”

If the Foundation did nothing else but to address this problem and need, that might save the nation by reversing course for a failing education system and adding essential human resources from America’s assets versus going offshore.

“The Opportunity

Research and practical experimentation at colleges and universities across the country are revealing promising solutions that could enable colleges and universities to increase graduation rates while maintaining or reducing costs and ensuring that all students receive a high-quality educational experience that is tailored to their needs, academic abilities, and career or employment goals.
These solutions include sophisticated technology-enabled teaching and student advising tools, as well as enterprise-wide systems that gather and analyze data to help institutions improve their performance and student outcomes. Also vitally important is close alignment between high school graduation requirements and college entry standards.”

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