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Bill Gates Applauds Affordable Colleges, Urges Graduates to Solve the World's Problems

Monday May 22, 2023. 12:06 AM , from Slashdot
When Bill Gates took the stage at Stanford back in 1996, he was ready with his first joke after a long round of appreciative applause. 'Maybe I dropped out of the wrong college.'

But Bill Gates still cares about education. In 2019, a Gates Foundation commission even suggested valuing colleges by their affordability and accessibility, as well as the improvements they provide to economic mobility. And by those metrics, Gates writes on his blog, an emerging leader is Northern Arizona University (or NAU).

- Beginning this fall, an NAU program will make tuition free for students with family incomes below the state's median of $65,000.

- Half its students are first-generation college students.

- NAU recently launched a universal admissions program, 'which redirects applicants who would have been denied entry to instead apply to community college,' Gates writes. 'From there, students are guaranteed subsequent admission to NAU as a transfer...'

- NAU has secured millions in scholarships and advising services for community college students planning to transfer to NAU.

So last weekend, Bill Gates delivered the commencement speech at Northern Arizona University, for graduates of its College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences and College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences. 'You are graduating from an institution that creates opportunity, fosters innovation, and builds community, and it has prepared you to find solutions to some of the biggest problems facing us today,' Gates told the audience.

Then he added 'NAU is also giving you something I never received: A real college degree.'

Some of you might know that I never made it to my own graduation. I left after three semesters to start Microsoft. So, what does a college dropout know about graduation? Not much personally, to be honest.
As I prepared for today, I thought about how you, as new graduates, can have the biggest impact on the world with the education you received here. That led me to thinking about the graduation I never had, the commencement speech I never heard, and the advice I wasn't given on a day just like this one.

That is what I want to share with you this afternoon: The five things I wish I was told at the graduation I never attended.

Gates suggested the graduates seek careers solving the world's important problems. ('Some of you are heading off to start careers as programmers. You could use your talents to make sure all people can benefit from artificial intelligence — or to help eliminate biases in AI.') He ended his speech by telling the students 'you will be the ones to solve the climate crisis and reduce the gap between the rich and poor.'

But Gates also told the students not to be afraid to change their mind or their careers — and to be willing to admit they don't know everything. 'Just about everything I have accomplished came because I sought out others who knew more. People want to help you. The key is to not be afraid to ask.'

My fourth piece of advice is simple: Don't underestimate the power of friendship. When I was in school, I became friends with another student who shared a lot of my interests, like science fiction novels and computer magazines. Little did I know how important that friendship would be. My friend's name was Paul Allen — and we started Microsoft together...

The only thing more valuable than what you walk offstage with today is who you walk onstage with.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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