Higher Education in the Information Age

Distance Education and Globalization II

Question and Answer
James O'Donnell, Moderator


James O'Donnell: Thank you Governor Leavitt. I'm Jim O'Donnell, and it falls to me to moderate the discussion on this very provocative talk. It happens that I spent a lot of time growing up in one of those western states, one not quite as small and overpopulated as Utah, as it happens to be. And I well remember from my experience and that of my classmates that access to higher education for us very much involved the challenge of distance, the burden of overcoming distance, that fell for the most part on our shoulders to overcome. It is in fact one of the achievements of higher education from the Middle Ages to the present time that we succeed in bringing together improbable communities of people who didn't grow up together, didn't come from the same town, weren't peasants in the same fields, but who come together drawn by a community of discourse and a community of innovation that has great value to society as a whole.

I see the Western Governors initiative as a new tactical front in that long war on distance, separation, and disconnectedness that we've been waging for whatever it is, 700 years, 900 years, down to the present. I'd like to begin if I might with a question for the governor myself. If you imagine this rolling out in five, ten years to the $30 million level you're talking about, are there customers now going to the state universities of Utah and Arizona who might not go physically to those places but use this instead, and who would they be? Who do you see as that?

Governor Leavitt: First of all let me say I don't think we can wait five years. This has to move much faster than that. We've got to get to the market much quicker than that, and that's something I--I seize on that opportunity to emphasize this point. We in higher education have not exactly been known for our speed to the market. We're very slow and deliberate, and that's one of the frustrations that's driving this. I mentioned earlier these companies that are desperate to have a system that will move more quickly. One of the things we're struggling with in establishing this is how do we get from five million to 30 million fast enough? Because there's no natural sponsor for this. We've been able to wire it together by enough institutions being willing to put $100,000 in each, or enough states plus this philanthropic money, but we've got to get from five million to 30 million fast and into the market place. And we expect to be there within the next year or year and a half, not five years.

The next point is, do I think there will be some students who go to campuses today that won't in the future? Yes, I do. I think particularly as bandwidth expands that, with or without Western Governors University, the demands of the market will force institutions to deliver not just into libraries and public buildings or high schools, but into homes, and that that's a natural--that'll be driven basically by the market place.

O'Donnell: Could you characterize who that might be? Which segment of that market? Are they people who live a long way away? Is it distance traditional learners? Older learners?

Leavitt: I mentioned earlier today that the high tech companies are desperate for people who can keep up with their technologies. They will tell you that they're putting in-the reason that that's going, that budget that was talked about today is going from 50 to 59 billion in a very short time is because of that component. High tech companies in particular, and well all companies that are now using technologies, are saying: we think you're going to have to be going to school about one semester for every four years you're in the workplace. I think it's not just those students, but they're adding to it. I took my youngest, my oldest son, rather, to college recently for the first time. I had the same experience most of you had. I put his suitcase under the bed, made his bed, figuring it would probably be the only time during the semester it would happen, walked up and down the hall of the dorm thinking to myself: how do you study with this much rock and roll music going on? But I did it knowing that he would have a great experience, that he would be challenged by some curmudgeon professor that'll push him harder than he's ever been pushed by his father or his mother, wanting him to have that traditional experience. But I believe he will not only have that traditional experience, but for him to have a quality experience he needs to have the experience of learning to deal with these technologies--that if he leaves that campus without knowing how to do it, he does not have a quality education. So this can't just be looked at now as part of a distance education. It's got to be looked at as part of the education of every student because it's part of learning how the world works.

O'Donnell: I was going to say that you talked about high tech businesses. I'm not sure that there are very many non-high tech businesses left.

Leavitt: That's right. President Rodin?

Judith Rodin: You mentioned that there are 20 pilot sites. What is the purpose of a site? Given what you characterize, what does a geographical location provide?

Leavitt: The 20 are institutions that are piloting the delivery.

Rodin: With their materials?

Leavitt: With their materials. We're just trying to get the system up and working, and then we--well the roll out is basically making the system accessible, both giving people access to then hundreds of institutions. Now we will initially have local sites where people can go to access counseling, where they can go to access the technologies if they don't have it, where they can go to get the assessments that are necessary. Ultimately we think those will proliferate, but only as service centers, not necessarily as places of delivery.

O'Donnell: Other questions or comments?

Audience Member (Sir Graeme Davies): I agree with you about inherent inertia of existing traditional universities, but what's the incentive system with respect to the institutions and the individuals who would essentially prepare the programs and the material for this?

Leavitt: Thank you. Perhaps I can answer that by telling you a story. In our last legislative session one of my priorities was to get a million and a half dollars to buy some digital satellite technology for one of our institutions that would allow us to deliver 26 different full majors to the footprint of that satellite, and we could do it in a way that would be interactive. I gathered a group of university presidents together to talk about how we would work together, and one of the issues was: how are we going to price this? Well, they told me about a treaty they had among the states where if you're from the state of X and you want to take a class from state Y, you pay one and a half times the regular tuition of state Y. Well, our goal here is to have a free port, and that doesn't sound like a free port to me. So I said, "If we're going to put this million and a half dollars into this, we need to have a free port where people can access it and the institutions basically compete on the basis of their price and their quality." Well, one of the presidents raised his hand and made a very revealing comment. He said, "We understand that, but there's a problem. And the problem is in that 26 full-course majors there are two engineering degrees, and frankly they're about of equal quality. One of them is about 40% less in tuition than the other, and if people find out that they can get one of those majors that's about the same quality as the other for 40%, well everybody's going to go there." It was like taking the mask off the revolution because suddenly we have an atmosphere here where because of the technologies people are not competing simply on the basis of their proximity or the prowess of their football team or the prestige of their program. All of those are still part, but they're also competing on the basis of their price and their quality.

Now you talk about what are the incentives.

Audience Member (Davies): For the institution and the faculty members.

Leavitt: I believe that, again this is not being driven by a bunch of "Governor Moonbeams". This is being driven by the market place. And the technologies will ultimately create the incentives themselves because people will be required to compete and have the opportunity to compete, and what that'll create is a revenue opportunity. And I think that's, after that whole monologue, that's it. It's the revenue opportunities that it creates and the survival instinct that will ultimately be provided. I go to faculty groups a lot, and I routinely will have a member of the faculty say something like this: "This scares the hell out of me. " And my reaction to them is to say, "Great! Don't do it! That's the solution. Don't do it until you feel like it's in your best interest."

But the beauty of having this as an independent, stand alone, independent institution that can draw from many others is the market place will ultimately shape this, and it isn't necessary to have it simply driven by the institutional momentum that is created. So I ultimately think it's a group of market incentives that--what's the advantage for the faculty? Well, I think we're moving into a period where we'll have great revenue opportunities created for the extremely good professors. We're already seeing this, and I'm talking too long about this, but it's an interesting point. You're seeing it I'm sure. The private entrepreneur who is packaging a course, they'll go over to Harvard and find themselves a business professor that's an all-star and say, "Would you be willing to be on here, and we'll pay you a lot of money to do it?" And then we'll get somebody from Stanford and we'll put them, we'll put their textbook on the internet, then they'll bring it to you as an institution and say, "Here's a package. Now you can choose to offer this to your student, or you can bring them into an auditorium with 500 students and say which do you want? You can take one wherever you want to do it at whatever time you want to do it. You can hear from Nobel prize winners and Pulitzer prize winners or you can talk to someone who is a teaching assistant because their professor is off doing research." Those are the kinds of things. That's the incentive for the student and I think also for the professor.

What's the incentive for the institution? This is just a very good way to leverage their assets.

O'Donnell: Steve Knapp.

Audience Member (Steve Knapp): Governor, I'm Steve Knapp from Johns Hopkins University. I found that the vision that you've laid out of increasing access across a very broad area a very exhilarating vision, but there is one striking feature that I'd like to just call attention to just to make sure that I understand fully the implications of it. I think you said at one point that there would be no new faculty involved in this venture. The faculty would provide the content. And what I think is intriguing about that is it means that this is a way of greatly increasing the ratio of students to faulty in higher education, and what you're saying is perfectly consistent with what the publishers were saying earlier one. It would have the same effect. And I'm struck by that because yesterday in presentations that you were not here to witness there was a great deal of emphasis on the interactivity between students and faculty that would be made available by Web-based instruction, and there seem to be two competing models here because one of the things that was emphasized there was how much more labor intensive the new Web-based instruction would be in contrast to traditional instruction.

Now we have an alternative model which I think your institution and the publishers have presented this morning in which there's a far less labor intensive outcome of Web-based instruction. And I guess the question I would ask about that is why wouldn't we, assuming that your model is the correct one-and none of us may be in the position to predict where the market will take this-but if you are right and the publishers are right, why shouldn't we imagine that the consequence of this would ultimately feed back in effect to wipe out, if not the entire faculties, large proportions of the faculties that now exist? And again I'm not presenting this polemically, just as a descriptive account to find out how we could think about this collectively, because I would imagine that the consequence would be that in fact most institutions which would try to get into this arena would in fact perish in the competition that this would open up because you are inviting them to compete on price and quality in ways that they have traditionally not done. And again, I'm not making a value judgment about that, simply predicting that it's likely that, if this scenario is the accurate one, most of the institutions are not likely to survive.

Let me just mention one implication, which is that what you could very well end up with is a small collection of elite institutions, such as this presented here this morning, which can afford to combine outreach of this kind with the preservation of traditional, campus-based instruction because of the prestige of their faculty and so forth, but a large-scale attrition of many of the universities, including state universities, including your own state universities, that are not quite at that level of traditional recognition or endowment. And would there not in fact be an incentive for state governments to push this model further in the direction of increasing access through Web-based instruction that is not labor intensive at the expense of labor intensive faculty? It would seem to me there's an economic mechanism there that is quite independent of the good will of particular political leaders. In short, is there not a worry in the background here or should there not be a worry in the background here about a rather significant bifurcation of education in which you have masses of students being trained by Web-based instruction without a faculty, and small, elite cores of instruction that are preserved in institutions like the ones we represent? I just present that because it may be in some tension with the democratic model of radically expanding access. Thanks.

Leavitt: Yes. There's a worry about that. Let me say that my suggestion that we would not be expanding faculty is that Western Governors doesn't intend to have any faculty. We intend essentially for the institutions to have the faculty. Now, do I believe that we will see this replace campus education? I don't. I don't believe it will. I think we'll start to see these tools used on campuses and it will dramatically change campuses, but I don't believe it will replace campuses. I think the traditional five-hour course, for example-we may see classrooms used two days a week instead of five days a week, and we may see three of those days occupied by a lecture that would be down-loaded on the Internet that the professor had previously done or some other content provider had, and that two days a week the professor might be used as a discussion facilitator or in laboratory work and different combinations. I think, as well, that--this is maybe the most critical point I'm going to make. We're not seeing a constriction in the market. We're seeing an expansion of the market. And that those people who are currently employed--and more will be employed, still doing different things on a highly personal basis. I think we're going, as I suggested earlier, from mass production to mass customization, and that those who work on campuses will be involved in customization and not in production.

O'Donnell: Mark Taylor.

Leavitt: I can tell he'd really like to follow up on that. Just the look in his eye.

O'Donnell: Would you like to speak for a moment?

Knapp: Just to go back for a second. I mean I guess that's the point. I mean I'm not sure that I have sufficient grasp of this to be able to refute that last point, but I'm a little puzzled by it because it seems to me what we've been hearing about is the possibility of doing more and more--including in the design and build model--advanced accreditation of these programs, so that even the roles of traditional faculties in certifying them it seems to me will increasingly go to institutions like the one that you're describing if this model succeeds. And therefore I don't see why you would need as many faculty. I mean you may still need faculty, you may still need somebody to do the production, but I can't see why you would need as many faculty involved in this production. So at the very least you would imagine a fairly significant downsizing of faculties, and I guess I don't exactly see why that wouldn't translate into a downsizing in the number of institutions of higher education. I mean we heard about the fantastic growth of Simon and Schuster's educational operation earlier on. If the only function preserved for faculty is to provide occasional campus-based meeting opportunities for students, then it seems to me we can do with a lot less faculty and we could probably do with a lot fewer campuses. And if that's true, then it seems to me that perhaps some of the consequences I'm describing might indeed come true.

Leavitt: My guess is it will be somewhere in between, and it wouldn't be all bad if it was. I mean, imagine that if we could do more for less.

Audience Member (Davies): The point was made by the governor about facilitation. That is very faculty intensive. If you look at programs that have put them in, you just operate in a different mode. It's not standing up talking to 500 people. It's working quite closely with people to educate them because the governor also made the point in the beginning: it's not about training them; it's about educating them. And when he talks about his own son going off to college, that's actually part of the education process. He's going to learn to do things. And there's a lot of educational evidence to show that if you try to distance educate unformed minds, many 18 year olds, the failure rates are very, very high indeed. I quoted you a figure this morning for the Open University. The average age is 35, and they do brilliantly because they're motivated, their educated, and they have structured minds, and that's the big difference. And this is a complement. It's not a substitute. And it's a delightful concept which I think a lot of people around the world could use as a model.

Leavitt: I emphasize a statement I like to make over and over. I don't see this as a replacement. I see this as a new element that will be necessary for every campus to offer or they'll be at a serious competitive disadvantage. And it will be offered to students who access it off campus. It'll be accessible to students who chose to be on campus. I believe the campus of the future will be a place where people go to interact more than it is to go and be processed and that it will change the nature of what a faculty is and what it does, but it will not eliminate the need for faculty. It will I think potentially enhance it because it's not constricting the market, it's expanding it.

O'Donnell: Mark Taylor.

Audience Member (Mark Taylor): Yes. I'm Mark Taylor from Williams College, and I speak as one who teaches and writes in the area of the arts and humanities, and I'd like to focus on a different bifurcation than the one Steve did and make a comment that I think also has a form of a plea for an extension of reflection here. One of the things I believe is that language creates worlds, and what that means is when language changes worlds change. That's a complicated relationship. And as I've listened to the language as somewhat of a voyeur in this kind of a context--not a context I'm usually in--over the past couple days, it's remarkable to listen to the rhetorical changes that are taking place. As a teacher of the kinds of things that I deal with, to listen to language of courseware, packaging, content providers, promotion-that's a significant--I mean, those are very, very loaded terms in relationship to what it is that we, as educators, do.

I think it's very critical to make a distinction between information and knowledge. We talk a lot about information. There can be information without there necessarily being knowledge. And you, Governor, had stressed the importance of not over-or of rethinking the relationship between education and training. To education and training I also would add thinking, because I think there can be a lot of training that goes on, and indeed a lot of education that goes on, that does not really involve thinking. Most of what I teach and write about doesn't have much market value probably and doesn't fit into a lot of these categories. Indeed, that's one of the reasons I teach it. And yet I think it's crucial for those involved in the arts and humanities to find ways to participate in this new information environment. It's not just about--all this talk about delivery.

Form and content cannot be separated that way I don't think. You change the form and you change the content in complicated kinds of ways. And part of the challenge is not only to envision what goes on in these environments as the communication of information, but at the same time to find ways in which there can be critical reflection and critical thinking also taught, which might not have the same kind of market value in an immediate sense, but which I believe remains absolutely critical to doing what we want to do in these environments, once established. Because we talk a lot about the concern of quality. We talk a lot about the concern of direction and purpose for all of this. Those issues get thought about very often at a meta-level, at a sort of a higher level, where we think about not only what it is we are doing, but why it is we're doing it, where we want to go, and the like. And a part of some way to integrate this kind of education which doesn't fit into these categories as readily--you're going to have a very different bifurcation, but one no less critical it would seem to me between at some level what I would call the communication of information and the cultivation of critical knowledge. If we don't accomplish that we will have fouled up a very important part of American culture and system, and I'm not here today to suggest that any of us have this figured out. I can tell you, however, that the market place is driving somewhere, is driving to the middle between education and training. People don't want employees that are just well educated and can't do anything in particular except learn the things that they ultimately have to train them. What they like is for them to have the basis of learning, the education, the thing that takes place in between. But they also very much like them to have a set of skills they can count on.

O'Donnell: Charlie Phelps.

Audience Member (Charles Phelps): A comment and then a question if I might. First a comment on time to market. I'm the provost at the University of Rochester. It's a private university in the state of New York. The state Board of Regents in New York regulates and has to approve every degree offered in the state in both public and private institutions. Now recently we applied to offer a Master's Degree in genetics at the University of Rochester, and the state of New York granted that approval nine months later. We already had been approved in a long-standing Ph.D. program in genetics, so I think our competence in teaching the material is not under question. So if you talk about time to market, my advice to state governors is: get out of our way.

Leavitt: Well, I don't know about New York, but I can tell you that it's not the governor holding you up.

Audience Member (Phelps): It's the State Board of Regents, which is built into the constitution of our good state.

Leavitt: But you make a good point. I mean the point is--I'll make it again: bureaucracy, regulation, tradition, and turf. They're all sociologic barriers. They're not technological.

Audience Member (Phelps): And it is not just the state governments. There's a wide, wide network of federal regulation that we have to deal with that slow us down a lot also. Possibly for good reason. But they do slow us down a lot, and they take a lot of our resources. Now the question. You're taking, I think, an important leadership role in the Western Governors University in the provision of education, and I think where you're aiming at the Associate in Arts and the electronic technician thing is probably the most important place for you to be at this point. You're saying the market is driving this, and I think that's also correct. There's an area that universities are involved in in particular, and that's the provision of the creation of new knowledge: research. And I'm going to ask you right now, how do you as the governor of Utah and how do the other governors--I'm not talking about Western Governors University, but the other governors involved in this discussion--what's your stance going to be on the support of research into the future? Are you going to be leaders as you are in the provision of education? Are you going to be followers? Or are you going to get out of the business?

Leavitt: I have a long history on this issue. I'll do my best to make it concise. The governors are in the middle of the tension between teaching and research. It's very clear that research is an important--in fact in my judgment it's an industry as much as it is an educational component. In fact I think it's often oversold, frankly, as an education component and undersold as an industry. A lot of what we do in education subsidizes it, and it should because it has to be done. I don't think you'll, I don't--from my own standpoint, we'll continue to try to reach a balance between the two because there's clearly the tension there. If we abandon the teaching role of institutions we will have abandoned the bread and butter product of our higher of our system.

Audience Member (Phelps): Actually, I have to disagree with you that teaching and research are in competition with each other.

Leavitt: I didn't say they were in competition. I just said I think that research is as much an industry that we subsidize as it is a teaching component, and I think that often-we can just disagree on this--I think often the education community oversells the relationship between education and research. I'm not saying it is nonexistent. I think it is highly existent, and it's part of the learning process for a very limited number of students, but the vast majority of students who go to those campuses for a bachelor's degree or an applied or an associate degree, and some of them go for graduate degrees--I'm just suggesting that it's very clear to me you come from a research background, and as someone who comes from a teaching background, perhaps Mark Taylor would argue with you a little bit about what was the most important.

Audience Member (Phelps): I come from both and I can't separate the way I teach from the research I do, and I think Mark Taylor, who is at a small college and not a teaching university, is going to tell you exactly the same thing. The creation of knowledge and the teaching are absolutely intertwined.

Leavitt: Well, I tell you what. Why don't you and I get together at lunch and argue about this.

O'Donnell: Shimon Schocken please.

Audience Member (Shimon Schocken): Hi. My name is Shimon Schocken. I'm the dean of the school of computer science at IDC, which is a new Israeli university. Over the last five years or so some of the most advanced Internet technologies were developed by Israeli companies. To mention only a few: Internet Telephone was developed by Vocaltech which is now a world leader in this area. The fire wall...


Audience Member: ...university for four years, graduate, and immediately enroll in technical programs to acquire the technical, computing types of skills that they need to get employed. The employability of your graduates, if they marry some technical in addition with a liberal arts training that they've got, is exceptional. Those are the kinds of people--if you listen to what executives from business and industry are asking for, you will find almost universally strong support for a liberal arts degree. Maybe using the technology to deliver a portion of the education-and we can deliver technical education pretty well using technology-gives people the edge of the technical skills. It also gives them an edge of understanding how they're going to live and work in this emerging environment, because we're very much in a telecommuting kind of environment. We work globally. We have to use technology. So the hybrid capability I think is very important. The other area--two other areas where I think this hybrid becomes particularly important is what about those kids who have a lot of cost pressures, time to degree? We're seeing more and more students in institutions--again I would point to Canada and some of those institutions--where students change majors. They've got to get additional courses. They take it on line so that they don't have an extended degree program. So it helps them economically.

The other are that we're starting to hope the Western Governors University is going to show us the way in how do you take people who usually cannot afford to get into the educational system and begin to access it? There was an interesting study done in Indiana where if you earned $38,000 a year I think the benchmark was, you no longer tax the state system. You are self-sustaining. You don't draw on what the state needs to support you. If you make under that, you cost the state money. If you're a college graduate you earn an average of what? $55,000 a year? How do we take more of these people in the system, make them college educated, higher wage earners so they're less a draw on the state revenues?

So I think there are a number of reasons why we see what you all have and what we might be able to do with technology leading us into some creative ways to move into the future.

O'Donnell: Mike Lesk.

Audience Member (Michael Lesk): Well I work, I want to be a little skeptical, along with Dr. Schocken, on the fraction of that 59 billion of private corporate education which is accessible to the university system. Bellcore does it's share of that, and the nit picking things that we teach with our share of that money no respectable university would have in its curriculum: how to use Microsoft Project, internals of the L-Fax data base system, managing your customer--you know. I don't think that you want to take that and try to teach it. What does worry me, and I don't know how you overcome this because it's really a private sector problem, is that despite all of the good words Bob Lucky sid about, "Well, I've never looked at all of my text books since I've left university," and all of that stuff is irrelevant. When we go our to hire at Bellcore, whatever Bob says, well, if you come out in computer science this year with a Ph.D. thesis topic in wireless databases, Internet, a few other subjects, you can get high 70's, low $80,000 a year fairly easily. If you come out with a Ph.D. in theory, even if you come from Harvard, and even if you swear up and down that you are flexible and will do anything, you will do lucky to get $40,000 a year. And we have to somehow get through to the employers as well as to the university system that flexibility and basic intelligence are what matters. The goal is not for universities to teach courses in how to use Microsoft Project. The goal is for universities to teach people enough about general principles that when they want to use Microsoft Project, they can pick it up on their own without a course.

O'Donnell: Peter Smith.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): If there was any doubt that we are all higher educators it has been demonstrated in the last half an hour. We had the people from inside the club dump all over the role of research yesterday and disagree with each other about it. Not a question was raised. Somebody from outside the club is actively misunderstood and it merits a 15 minute sort of wringing of the hands. The thing that is so interesting to me--I've lived inside and outside and alongside this world for 30 adult years now-is, as troubling as this may be to all of us, we aren't in this alone any more, and we're not going to set the rules alone anymore. And that's all the governor is saying. The other is that the standard parade of imaginary horribles drawing on extreme examples of decline and disaster simply won't have currency and doesn't have currency outside of rooms like this. This would be totally non-persuasive argumentation to other people who are in our business--although I think I may be on the edge of the business that some of you think you're in--but also are the consumers of our products. It simply would not be persuasive argumentation at all. Now either you care about that or you don't care about it. If you're in a faculty meeting at some college, you don't care about it necessarily, but if you're in fact trying to change responsibly and respond to the landscape as it is changing around us, the manner of argumentation or the type of argumentation we use I think does matter. It's just astonishing to me to watch what happens when the defensive gorge rises as it has in the last 25 minutes.

O'Donnell: The liberal arts president over here. Harry.

Audience Member (Harry Payne): Just one observation. The idea that to become adept at technology we have to breed a hybrid of the liberal arts college and technical education I think misperceives what we do. Our students handle technology all the time. They're adapted, they're very comfortable, and we're just catching up with them as teachers. But I don't think it's a hybrid. We do technology and we do science at a very high level. That's an observation.

Now a question for the governor. The market is the compelling, driving force in this and the compelling metaphor, a very different metaphor than what we're used to dealing and working in. In their blue skying, have the governors ever sat around and talked about privatizing their universities--because you're talking about a market within a highly subsidized government industry--and whether you could visualize a world 20 or 25 years from now and truly the market should reign?

Leavitt: When you said that, my first reaction was to count the number of voters there are on higher education campuses.

Audience Member (Payne): Blue skying I said. This is on tape!

Leavitt: I don't ever think you'll see a serious move to privatize colleges and universities. I do think, however, that the market will take a more important role simply because the franchise, the barriers of entry, are now being reduced. And there will be, as you have seen demonstrated in the last two days, high quality, low cost alternatives to what happens on state property at colleges and universities. And when people-and again it will be the market place that makes that decision. If we continue to have state owned universities--which today average $9,000 a year to attend--if it continues to go up at a rate substantially greater than inflation, there'll be some price barriers that are created. And when people start looking for alternatives to get education that will become a factor. State legislators will be a factor. In our state--and I came from the Board of Regents. I was the chairman of the Board of Trustees of one of our universities. I don't think you'll find too many political figures that have much more background in higher education than I came to this job with. But fight as I have to keep the percentage of the pie that higher education has enjoyed in our state, I am unsuccessful. And the reason I am unsuccessful is because I have welfare problems that are ballooning, I have healthcare costs that are going through the roof, I have highways to build, I have a prison population that is exploding. Now, I know that the solution to that is education. But I'm sorry, if you're trying to keep the rattlesnake away from your ankle, at times you have to build prisons before you can educate them and you have to keep them there at a high cost, and I understand all of those relationships. The point is I think higher education will be subsidized less by legislatures, not out of a sense oft their lack of desire, but simply because of the competing demands. And that again will drive people to look for alternative ways to deliver this product on a more efficient basis than we have in the past.

O'Donnell: Judith.

Audience Member (Judith Salrapiro ?): I was a little concerned at Peter Smith's intervention because I heard Provost Knapp to be saying or asking the governor, "Have you folks been thinking about possible actual outcomes of taking this path?" I didn't hear it just as a rhetorical, provocative move. Nor when Mark Taylor alerted us to the very basic, I think, idea that different languages reflect or even create different views of the world. He was alerting us to something important for us to keep in mind, not: "Don't give me your consumer's; I don't want to hear about it." And I don't think that's what was going on here. I think the question really, and therefore to say to Provost Knapp, if you say that to people who aren't academics they're not going to listen to you or their backs are going to get up isn't the point. The point is, and here presumably is where we all come together. Surely we sometimes have to do less than tell the full truth as we understand it as we have reflected upon it, but at least what we try to do in not first fooling ourselves is to really try to answer questions in as principled a way as possible. And I think we've been doing a pretty good job of that. We'd love more time to discuss with one another. But I think we should not then--I think you're imputing too much bad behavior to the people who are raising questions that in fact should be asked, should be taken seriously, and should be answered. So I guess this is a sermon rather than a question.

O'Donnell: Al Filreis.

Audience Member (Al Filreis): I agree mostly, but Peter did call us on one thing. He said that we're not setting the rules, and I'd like to comment on that briefly.

We aren't setting the rules. However, as a hearer of the rules as they're being set by others and a humanist, I'd also like to note that many folks, including many of the western governors, are in effect sending us a mixed message because they're also in a different setting on a different stump saying that we have to--we higher educators--have to support traditional values, and among the traditional values are to educate people to be articulate writers and speakers and to be able to participate as citizens and parents and neighbors in social discourse and political discourse. So I go back to Provost Knapp who said--In fact, I'll flesh out in detail from the point of view of someone who teaches writing, the director of the writing program here at Penn. For every 18 students to teach writing you need one instructor, and we're planning to do this--right Greg?--distance learning. We'll do it at Penn, but we need one instructor hired for every 18 people, and that instructor has to be trained for at last two years beyond the BA. So for--you just figure out the numbers of westerners and others who will be taking these courses to earn the AA degree. Michael Lesk noted I think appropriately that they need to be learning things beyond how to run the software. They need to be able to write and speak. The two students we met yesterday, Morgan Friedman and Myra Lotto, both English majors, will go into technical fields I would predict. They'll do it because they're hyper-articulate and they write well and they were taught in this labor intensive environment that I think Provost Knapp wants to preserve even across the wires.

O'Donnell: Mark Wrighton.

Audience Member (Mark Wrighton): Governor, you really gave a great talk here, and I want to thank you I think on behalf of everyone because you spent so much time with us. And I think your talk was very thoughtful and has lifted the sights of quite a few people. I know that from speaking with others outside this room. Most of us work at private universities. In fact, I think the meeting was convened around a group of private universities and colleges. And if you look at our operations, all of us lose money, and the reason we don't show losses at the end of the day is we have substantial gift streams and endowment income for those of us that have been fortunate to accumulate significant endowments. You've lifted out an opportunity around revenue streams, and we'd like to have more revenue. And I guess one particular question I have is: would you let in a private university? And if not, and if you would also, what do you think our role would be and how can we garner a significant revenue stream? And do you have some tips for us about how to start making money instead of habitually losing it?

Leavitt: A small liberal arts institution, private institution in our state--the president came to see me two, three months ago. He said, "I'm really worried about this Western Governors University. I think it could seriously hurt us because we cater so much in our particular market to the working adult, and I think this potentially could cut into our market." I said, "I really hope you won't look at this that way." And I'd say the same thing to all of you. I hope you won't see this as competition. I hope you would see it as a tool.

Audience Member (Wrighton): I don't personally feel threatened and I don't think the others do either.

Leavitt: I'm just reflecting the comment from this president that I was speaking of. Your struggle--she told me--actually she came to see me because she was asking if the state would give any serious thought to making contributions to her university. She said, "We're struggling. We're raising money. We're building endowments, etc. But we're educating a lot of the people that you would have to if we weren't here, and would you consider giving money to us as a regular appropriation?" So we talked about Western Governors and I said, "Please go and meet with the people who are organizing this and talk about the way you could make this part of the way you carve your niche out. The answer to your question is: yes. We need private institutions. I think we're an opportunity for private institutions as well as public institutions. I ultimately see--there will be other Western Governors Universities created. And they're being created today. Ultimately we'll all be hooked up together. There'll be an interchangibility. The California system--we desperately need that to succeed, because we need the content that they will create. The answer is: yes, we need private institutions, and yes, we believe there's a role, and no, I haven't got it figured out yet as far as how the economics of this. But I can tell you this: I believe that this is part of the secret to making higher education more economically feasible to deliver to more people.

O'Donnell: Maybe two last questions. Mort Rahimi first.

Audience Member (Mort Rahimi): Governor, actually if you succeed, this is going to be very good for universities that have brand names because the reality of marketing goes beyond quality. I think a degree from Harvard is--people are going to pay for it no matter how bad or how good it is. Do you see that as a threat to a--how good it is! Do you see this as a problem for you, to the University of Utah, for example? Have you worried about that, that some of us around this table would be out there selling all the courses?

Leavitt: You are now. And do I see it as a threat? When I put my hat on as a fiduciary to look over those public assets, of course I do. And what it says is: I've got to be better some way than Harvard is. And I think that improves those people who attend the University of Utah as well as those at Harvard. There's no question that brand name is still going to carry. People say, "Well, you know, will people really want a degree from someplace called Western Governors University?" Well, I don't know. We'll see. And who'll decide that? Well it won't be the faculty senate. It'll be the market.

O'Donnell: Last call for now, sorry. Paul Mosher.

Audience Member (Paul Mosher): Governor Leavitt, you describe an urgent, democratic, populist vision for education in your 11 western states, which indeed I don't think threatens either public or private education. It adds a whole new dimension. In doing this, I just hope that as you rush to product, you won't build so fast that you forget to build some bridges in the necessarily infrastructural highway. As an Oregonian who has consulted in I think seven or eight of those western states with some pretty small libraries and very small communities, I wonder what percentage of the population can afford a computer, a Network connection, and a hundred megabit line to sustain the delivery of the kind of information you're talking about. The technology's there, but the infrastructure is very costly. Have you built a technical team from some of these big business folks who can help you out? Have you got communities organizing to help provide delivery for the many, many thousands of households that really haven't got the where-with-all to get into the Net to get the delivery of your product?

Leavitt: I'll make a couple of points because I think this is a very important piece of the sociology of this. First of all, this is not a dilemma that's created by higher education. This is a dilemma that's coming as a result of technology generally, and we've got to overcome that one way or the other. The second point I'd make is that one of the first contacts I had after this was announced was a small city mayor in the central part of our state who came to me and said, "We'll never get a community college in our part of the state, but if you'll bring one of these centers to our town, we'll pay for it and we'll hire a Ph.D. quality person who can come sit in the basement of our City Council building and create a university that our students can use." That will happen, I believe, over and over again. I think you'll see access to technology being created in public libraries, in the basements of city buildings, in extension services and high school and community colleges. This will expand.

The other thing I would point out is--do you remember the first fax machine that you saw? I remember mine. It was 1978, it was in a government building, and it was quite an instrument. It had a large drum, and you'd hook a piece of paper to it and it would roll for about 15 or 20 minutes, and then at the other end it would produce the same paper, and it was a miracle! Only there were two problems: it cost 78 hundred dollars to buy it and nobody had one. Today they're in my hotel room, they're in my computer, they're in my car, they're in my home, they're in my business, they're in my pager, they're in my cellphone--I mean literally it's interchangeable with everything that we do. And I believe in time that, as the telephone, the television, and the computer become one instrument--and we'll start to see a more universality as we start to see the standards ultimately come together-this is stuff we'll all have to work together to figure out. We don't have the solution to do this today, but we're clearly headed that direction.

If I could just leave today with one message, that is the message. We don't have this figured out. We do know this is the direction that the world is going. And what I hope Western Governors and many efforts like that, like the ones that you're doing on your campuses, can accomplish is: let's not be afraid of this. Let's be aggressive in finding the ways to break down the barriers that are sociologic barriers to-because this-this has the capacity not to divide the rich and the poor, not to be a--it has the possibility of linking us in new ways. It can bring down the barriers that ultimately drive societies to divide. It also has the power to divide us. It will divide us if we allow the separations that we have felt and seen revealed today. I've revealed the state and federal role. Frankly, we're kind of resisting the fact that the federal government could take this over. We've seen the divide between the private sector and the public sector. The private sector thinks they're very important in this role. The academic community sees them as being vitally important. And they're both right. The divide between those on the academic community that would teach and those that would research and those that would do both--those are forces that ultimately will shape this, and they're very positive as long as we're all moving toward the ultimate goal here which is to make high quality, low cost education accessible to every American--and for the matter every citizen of the world. We're all improved by that, and I think that's what this has the potential to do.

O'Donnell: Thank you. That Ph.D. in the basement of small city Utah, that suddenly sounded like a part that was written to be played, I was thinking, by either Jimmy Stewart or maybe by Jane Wyman. That's the American frontier at it's best. It's painful to have to interrupt this at this point, but we have an opportunity for uploading, downloading, and dynamic liveware interface down the hall. We ask you to be back here at 1:15 for the set up for the afternoon session. Before that if you can just join me in thanking Governor Leavitt for his presentation.



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Last modified: 26 January 1998