Judith Rodin: When we learned that our next guest was
going to be able to join us at this symposium, we knew that we
would have an even more provocative and heated conversation than we have had thus far.
As Chief Executive of the State of Utah, Governor Mike Leavitt has staked out very,
very exciting territory at the intersection of education and
technology, an area where the governor continues to play a leadership
role. Certainly one of the most exciting initiatives, and the
one that we're delighted to have him speak to us about this morning,
is the Western Governors University. It is a virtual education
initiative, started in June of 1995, and it will be pushing the
boundaries of distance learning, perhaps even further than we
saw this morning. Governor Leavitt is Co-leader, along
with Colorado Governor Roy Roamer, of this initiative, and he
will speak to us about it this morning. It is a very great honor
and a privilege for me to introduce to you the Governor of Utah,
Michael Leavitt: Thank you all and good morning. That
was a very pleasant introduction. It's better than the one I
received recently at a small town in our community, or near our
community, in central Utah. I walked into a little restaurant
there. You've been in these places. There's a snack bar with
the vinyl stools that spin around, and they've got the little
booths with three plays for a quarter. And as I walk in there's
a farmer sitting right next to the cash register. I can tell
as I walk in that he is, he thinks he's seen me somewhere before
but he's not sure. So I have my lunch, and I go up to pay, and
he's still there. He said, "Do a lot of people say you look
like the governor?" I said, "Quite a few people say
that." He said, "Makes you mad, don't it?"
I'd like today to, I hope to, make you a little mad here and there.
I'd like to stimulate some discussion. I'd like to tell you
about the Western Governors University. Perhaps I should give
you a little background on how it came about. Then there are
a series of things when I speak about this that almost always
come up, and I'd like to kind of go through those questions and
perhaps give you some basic information, and then we can have
1993: I was elected as governor, and it was very clear to me
as I entered office--I had been on the Board of Regents in our
state which is the governing board of all the colleges and universities,
and I had been the chairman of one of the college's Board of Trustees
for four years. So I was not a new comer to higher education-and
it was clear to me that there were five things that were true,
among many others. The first is that we were entering an era
of mass customization, and that our whole system was really based
on mass production. The second is that the interest of the private
sector was growing thin and their patience was growing thin with
this old debate of whether we educate students or whether we train
them. They wanted both. The third is that the world is beginning
to work less like an old main frame computer and more
like network PC's--that that's true not just in the world of technology,
but it's true in business, it's true in government, it's true
in education, it's true in every area of the world. The fourth
is that the market place is ultimately going to shape these things.
It will ultimately take this over, and as the steward of nine
institutions of higher learning I needed to do what I could to
make sure they were in front of that as opposed to being affected
adversely by it. And the fifth is that the world is moving so
fast that we in higher education weren't keeping up with it.
Well in 1993 I made a series of challenges to the higher education
and the public education sector of our state. Among them were
that I wanted every student in our state to be part of technology,
to learn to receive information and to impart information in
the same way. I wanted to deliver the equivalent of a community
college into every one of our high schools to make our system
more stream-lined and systematic. I wanted it to be more competency
based. And we desire to deliver full degree offerings to our
students by the end of 1996. We achieved some of those, and we
were painfully naive in others. We started investing millions
of dollars for a small state in not just the technology infrastructure
but the courseware, and it became very clear to me after a short
period of time while we were having great success in delivering
education to lots of students through technology that we weren't
going to get it done alone.
One day I'm in Flagstaff, Arizona to talk with a woman by the
name of Dr. Clara Lovitt who is the president of Northern Arizona
University--a delightful woman. We got sort of boasting about
the things that we were doing. We're doing a lot in Arizona.
We're doing a lot in Utah. We have a student network we call
our Ed-net system. Many of you have systems of interactive video
like we do. I said, "Dr. Lovitt, is there any reason in
your mind why we couldn't just take all the great things you're
doing in Arizona and take the good things we're doing in Utah
and hook them up so that our citizens could have the benefit of
what you're doing and yours could have the benefit of what we're
doing?" She said, "Yes, I understand the virtue of
that, but" she said, "there are four reasons why we
can't do it." She said, "The first reason is bureaucracy,
the second reason," she said, "is regulation, the third,"
she said, "is tradition, and the fourth" she said, "is
turf." Now I thought: that a pretty good summary. It occurred
to me that absolutely none of those four items were technological
barriers. They were sociologic barriers. And over and over again
as I move through this process it becomes clear to me that it
is the sociology, not the technology, that ultimately becomes our
Well, I went to a meeting in Park City, Utah the following June.
This would be 1995 now. We have closed door meetings occasionally
with just the governors sitting around a table talking about what
are the things that worry us the most. I told the governors about
my seven year old son who ten years from now would enter a freshman
class in our state that's twice the size of the one that's there
today. I talked about the investment in terms of infrastructure
if we were to build buildings as we went each year to do it.
We have challenges just like any other state, and our welfare
system and our highways and we're developing water-we're trying
to do all the things that it takes to do, and if we're to develop
campuses at the same rate that our citizens and our demands are
growing, particularly when you start adding in all of the retooling
that we're being called on to do, I confided to my colleagues
I could not see how we could meet that demand. I told them about
our initiative to deliver technology and said, "Are there
any of you trying to go through this at the same time like we
are?" All the hands went up. "Is there anybody here
interested in coming to the table and see if we can't work together
to solve this?" All 12 hands went up.
December of that same year we concluded we would meet in Las
Vegas with our higher education officers, and for about two and
a half days we talked about how we might work together as a group
of states to bring some shape to our collective problem. From
that came a decision that we would work together to develop what
has now become Western Governors University. I'd like to tell
you some about that university today, but before I do I'd like
to tell you about one of these experiences that we had in Las
We invited some private sector people to come to our meeting.
We sat around a hollow square, as we often do at those meetings.
The first matter was introductions. I'm Mike Leavitt, the Governor
of Utah. I'm C.C. Foxly, the Higher Education Commissioner from
Utah. And sitting next to her was a man by the name of Bob Frankenberg,
who was the president of a high tech company called Novell. Many
of you use their networks. He said, "I'm Bob Frankenberg.
I'm the chief executive of Novell Corporation and I am also the
president of a university." Kind of a long pause. None
of us knew what he was talking about. He said, "Yes, I'm
the president of a university. We have kind of an unusual curriculum.
We only have one degree. It's called Certified Network Engineer.
And we have had so far about 80,000 graduates, and our graduates
are in high demand. They average about $38,000 each in their
initial job." He said, "Can any of you say that?"
There was an awkward silence. But he made palpable the point
that this was not just about the way we deliver knowledge. It
is about what we're delivering and how we are measuring it. And
his comment spoke volumes about the need for us not just to talk,
as Peter suggested, about the way we deliver it, but the whole
question of what we're certifying and how we know.
I have worked in the last year and a half with a large number
of high tech companies who have leaped into this effort. Not
just because they want to see technology used and delivered, but
because their very survival--their very survival-hinges on whether
or not they can find people who have the skills they need that
are moving at a break neck speed. Two weeks ago I sat with a
president of a major high tech company who told me if I miss one
product cycle I'm dead. And he's right. If I can't find people
who have the skills I need today, I can't survive. And he said
to me our colleges and universities are not adapting fast enough.
The reason I'm involved in this is because we've got to find
a way to find people who know what we need now, not later. We
don't have time to be able to let the system mature around our
technologies because we're leading them. And I don't care where
they learned it. I don't care if it's a high school kid who is
just smart. I don't care if it's a technician who has been around
a high tech company another place. I just need to know what they
know what they know and where I can find them. I mention that
because when we talk today about Western Governors University,
it's very important that you understand this is not just about
delivering technology--delivering education through technology.
It's about challenging and rethinking the very fundamental way
in which we measure what people need to know. It's about how
we can measure learning and competency as well as just how much
time people have spent in their chair.
Well, back to my story, the governors met in December of '95,
and then we met again in Omaha six months later, after a group
of higher educational professionals had come together to develop
a work plan. We all signed a memorandum of understanding. There
are now 15 states and one territory and a number of other states
who have indicated they would like to join this effort. The states
under this memorandum of understanding agreed to put some developmental
money into Western Governors University. We all agreed that we
would bring our systems of higher education together to work in
a consortial fashion to be able to unlock those barriers of bureaucracy
and regulation and tradition and turf. We all concluded that
we would agree to work to develop a series of local centers that
I'll tell you about in just a moment.
Let me then move to the questions that people normally ask.
The first question they often ask is, "How does this relate
to the existing campuses?" I like to ask this question.
Let me tell you what this is not. This is not a replacement
for the existing system of campus education. It's a new element.
I would argue today that any campus that does not have or in
the future that does not have the capacity to deliver this kind
of education will ultimately be shorting their students in terms
of their quality, and they will be at a serious disadvantage in
terms of their ability to compete in the market place. That's
a word you'll hear me use repeatedly today.
So what's the role of the governors? Well, the governors aren't
experts in higher education. I don't stand here with credentials
to be able to do that. But we are empowered, collectively, to
unlock those barriers of regulation and bureaucracy and tradition
and turf, and when we come together to say, "This is a direction
that we move," it has allowed us to at least have the fire
power to move forward in things such as accreditation, and move
forward in terms of being able to bring people together. That
is our role. Currently there are, I mentioned, 15 states. Each
of the governors are serving as a member of the trustees of this
group. Each of us appointed either the head of our systems of
higher education or another person. For example, I have appointed
Dr. David Gardener, who is the former president of the California
system of higher education. He is the appointee from our state.
I like to think of the governors as a-well, if you think of it
as a rocket. And the governors are basically the first stage
of the fuel. Our goal, our role is to help this thing take off
and to get through the resistance of the normal atmosphere to
see if we can't get it into an orbit. There'll be a point in
time when the governors are more weight than they are a thrust,
and at that time hopefully we'll be smart enough to drop off and
to let this thing go into an orbit of it's own. But for now our
role is simply to give it the sense of thrust that's needed to
get through the resistance because there is resistance of tradition
and turf and regulation and bureaucracy.
If it isn't the governors then, who is it that's constructing
Western Governors University? That's the second question. Well,
it's a--I mentioned the Board of Trustees, but we've also got a
series of consulting organizations in private sector companies
helping us. A group called NCHEM which is out of Colorado. It's
an acronym for something to do with higher education--National
Center for Higher Education Management. It's a lot of smart folks
who know a lot more than the governors. They're helping us develop
the competency based element of this. The Western Cooperative
for Educational Telecommunications, which is a subsidiary of WICHE,
which is a western organization of higher education, they're helping
us put together the technology piece of it. We have a group out
of Boston called the Monitor Company that's doing our business
plan. And then we have this collection of high tech companies;
IBM, Sun, 3COM, Oracle, Microsoft, AT&T, Simon and Schuster
was mentioned earlier, and a number of others have come together
to say, "We see this as a venue where we can all come together
to make good things happen."
Third question: will this have a faculty? No, this is not going
to have a faculty because the source of the content will be the
existing campuses that are participants from around the western
United States and also from around the world ultimately.
How does a student access WGU? It will be Internet based. Not
only will you go in and say, "Here are the courses that you
can get," and on what medium, but also it will help you make
an assessment of what competencies you need in order to get a
certain degree or certificate.
What technologies will be used? We concluded early on we would
not limit ourselves with respect to technologies, that we'd let
all of the technologies come together. It's become clear to us
that the power of this is the interaction of the technologies,
but we also recognize that we've got to be planing for the technologies
of the future, not just the technologies that exist today. Do
you remember the first video game that you ever watched? Pong?
Anybody remember. My kids know all about them. They've got
highly interactive color, artificial intelligence, with music.
You carry it in your pocket. Well, I'd like to suggest that
we, while we're starting to make a considerable amount of progress,
we are just leaving the Pong era when it comes to knowing how
to utilize the technologies of the future--as bandwidth continues
to expand, as we use digital satellite more, as we are able to
take the interactive video into the home and use all of these
together. The power of this is using them together, not individually.
So we are not limiting the number of technologies. We're simply
cataloging and providing ways for students to access it.
How is it funded? Well, I mentioned each of the states have
put money up. We've raised about three million dollars between
the states, about a million of which has come from the private
sector. We think it will take us about five and a half to six
million to get our whole system developed and piloted. We've
selected 20 pilot universities that will be piloting this. We
think it will take about 30 million dollars to get it rolled out
in it's full compliment after that. We're having to look at three
or four different alternatives to go from five million, where
it will be proven up, to 30 million where it will be fully rolled
out, and this is an interesting part of this dilemma. The options
are, number one: we could go to the philanthropic community and
say, "We're doing something quite unique here. Please support
it." That's number one. Number two: we could go to the
national government and say, "We would like you to put some
money into this." Or number three: we could take parts
of it into the private market place.
As I mentioned, two weeks ago I met with a large group of these
high tech companies. They had a clear bias. They said, "Let's
take this into the market place." We had the developers
of the Internet who were there. Now, they were saying, "This
is just like the Internet. It was closely aligned with the academic
community. The academic community was trying to keep it kind
of in on it's own turf, but we were able to take it into the market
place. And it exploded into uses, and you can see what's worked
today." Go out into the market place and there are investment
capital people there saying, "We'd love to take this into
the market." The point is, we don't know yet how we'll go
from where we are today until it's fully rolled out, but the point
is there's a great deal of interest and that's one of the barriers
we're ultimately going to have to work through is to have to finance
It is clear that it's got to be operational on a tuition basis.
The way it will work is a student will access the Internet.
They'll find what course they want. There are basically three
markets that we're looking at. The first one is just the brokered
course, number one. The second is a full, brokered degree. Or
the third will be we're now developing these competency-based
degrees. Western Governors University will be a degree granting
institution, but the degrees that we'll offer will be competency
based. We're starting with just two. One is a certificate in
electronic technology, and the second is an Associate of Arts.
The Associate of Arts degree now is being circulated among faculties
around the west to get their response and suggestions. We expect
that we'll have, we'll be operational among the 20 pilots sometime
during the late part of '97, early '98.
Some have asked me about other states besides states in the west.
We have a policy position that any state that wants to be involved
in this is welcome, that we're using the name Western Governors
because it originally came from a western governors association
initiative. It's not inconceivable at some point that that name
may not be particularly fitting to what we're doing.
Once a student accesses the university on the Internet, they'll
make an assessment of what class they want or a degree program.
They'll be able to fully matriculate through that system. If
they've accepted a full degree program, they'd obviously have
to qualify into the requirement of that particular institution.
If they got a single class, they could probably access that without
full matriculation. They sign up. The financial transaction
is taken place there. The software is then designed to basically
send the money, the tuition portion, to the university that is
the actual, the offering institution. Western Governors will
keep a small portion or add a fee to it. We're still working
through how best to finance the internal operation. We ultimately
see Western Governors having a small, central office with what
we think will be hundreds of locations throughout the country,
or for that matter potentially the world, where people could go
to access the counseling, assessment, or the technology.
As someone suggested earlier, there are so many things to talk
about when you get into this kind of a brief time frame. It's
hard to describe it, but let me just say this: that the response
has been very positive. It's been a very exciting venture. It's
one that I believe is driving a lot of change.
One of the questions is often: how will it be accredited? We
went as governors to the accreditation agencies that serve the
western states and said to them, "We need this to be accredited.
Ultimately the market place is going to judge us on the basis
of it's quality, but we've got to have some means of independently
attesting to it's quality." This is not exactly what they're
accustomed to dealing with, and their first response was, "Well
we want to help you, so you form it up and then submit it to us,
and we'll tell you if it's quality." We haven't got time
for that. We need to move faster than that. So we have asked
them if they would work with us in what I like to call a design
building process, where we will work as we go with them so they
can help us design it in a way that will ultimately be accredited.
And gratefully, they have agreed to do that.
There are four of the institutions, four accrediting agencies
that deal with the western states. They have formed a joint commission
that will regionally accredit this, as opposed to doing it one
accreditation at a time. We think that's a positive thing because
it'll ultimately create some standards. Heaven knows there's
going to have to be a different set of standards for an institution
like this. Libraries, for example. Part of the process of accrediting
an institution, as all of you know better than I, is to go through
and count the number of volumes and the numbers of periodicals
and so forth. Well, how do you accredit an institution that doesn't
have a library but has access to everything? You heard Simon
and Schuster talk earlier today about the digitization of their
entire offering set. Well, that's happening in all of your institutions
in lots of different ways. Well, we're going to have to change
the way we think about accreditation with respect to libraries.
Well, I would just close my formal remarks today in this way:
there is an entrepreneur in our state by the name of Ray Norda
who was the founder, ironically, of this Novell Company that I
spoke of earlier. He said, "Whenever you're making a change
there is difficulty." But his challenge is the challenge
I leave you with today. In the world, the role of the United
States and those industrial nations that make up this component
they refer to as the G-8 have been leaders because we have almost
all been willing to create an atmosphere of universal accessibility
for our citizens. Higher education very clearly is going to become
an export. We have to work together in a way that will allow
us to exchange and continue that synergy so there is universal
acceptance. But it will be hard. Ray Norda's challenge was this:
when it comes to change, if you fight it you'll die. If you
accept it, you can survive. But if you lead it, you'll prosper.
My challenge today is that, as a nation, we recognize this is
not an easy transition, but it is one that is not being driven
by governors or by higher education and faculty senates. It's
being driven by the market. And that there will be people out
there who will offer high quality, low cost information to the
market place. And that if we as a higher education community
can rally together and work together and not fight this, or not
just accept it but lead it, we as a nation will not just survive
but we will prosper. And it's my firm belief that meetings like
this with the power of people with this kind of influence getting
together to say, "How can we work together and not have to
re-invent the wheel every time we turn?"--we can in fact
lead this. And that it can be a powerful engine to continuing
the leadership that the United States of America has offered to
the world. And I look forward to the discussion today and fielding
any other inquiries that you might have. Thank you.