In a post on his personal blog, philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates described the University of Central Florida as an example of how universities can effectively use online learning to boost access and student success while still keeping tuition affordable.
“Our colleges and universities need to be bigger and better,” Gates wrote.“UCF has been a pioneer in showing how that can be done. I hope other colleges and universities will learn from its success.”
Bill and Melinda Gates visited UCF in October, along with executives from the foundation that bears their names. In a video and blog post shared Monday, Gates pointed out that UCF is bucking conventional wisdom that argues higher education institutions can’t serve more students without sacrificing quality or raising costs.
“UCF is challenging this storyline by proving that a university can have it all: a large, diverse student population, high standards, and affordable tuition,” Gates wrote. “Since 1992, UCF has managed to triple the size of its student body to 66,000 students while at the same time reducing cost, boosting its graduation rate, and expanding access for low-income and first-generation students.”
One reason for UCF’s success is its longtime investment in a robust system of online learning. UCF faculty are required to take a minimum of 80 hours of training before teaching online, and work directly with instructional designers to ensure the effectiveness of their online courses.
Gates sees the future of quality online education as crucial. As the cost of a degree increases, the achievement gap grows along with a shortage of qualified workers.
“Solving this challenge will require our higher education institutions to expand access to students of all economic backgrounds and provide them a high-quality, affordable education,” Gates wrote. “In other words, our colleges and universities need to be bigger and better. UCF has been a pioneer in showing how that can be done. I hope other colleges and universities will learn from its success.”