Transforming a Prestigious HBCU

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 - David Thomas, president of Morehouse College, joins us to talk about the challenges of building on the legacy of a storied institution and stretching traditions in transformative ways.

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Jeff Selingo (00:10):

So Michael we're coming off an academic year, unlike any other in higher education. And it's fair to say that there are a lot of presidents out there don't want to go through that experience ever again, but also that they don't necessarily want to return to things as they were pre pandemic either.

Michael Horn (00:25):

That's absolutely right, Jeff. And although so much of the last year, challenged colleges and universities, not everything that changed was actually for the worse. In fact, quite a lot of it has opened up new opportunities for better supporting and serving students. And today we talked to David Thomas, president of Morehouse college, one of the most preeminent, historically black colleges in the country about what he and his institution have learned during the pandemic and what they plan to take.

Jeff Selingo (00:52):

I'm Michael Horn and I'm Jeff Selingo Michael. Well, first of all, it's great to see you in person. So just for our audience knows we are taping this together at the annual ASU GSV summit in San Diego, which is in San Diego this year, last year, it was on online and we haven't done future you in person since early 2020. I mean, it's been quite a stretch since we were together

Michael Horn (01:19):

Indeed. And despite all the swirl of the Delta variant right now, it is great to see you as well in person Jeff. Yeah,

Jeff Selingo (01:26):

As we've discussed a while, many in higher education are desperate to move away from the frantic and heated discussions and planning around COVID and it's all its variants for a variety of reasons. And while there were many downsides from the pandemic, of course, my personal feeling is that as we move past this pandemic, if higher ed returns to normal, that is, as it largely was before the pandemic, my feeling is we've we've really failed. Going back to normal, in other words, really shouldn't be

Michael Horn (01:56):

The goal. I couldn't agree more Jeff in, in, you know, in the K-12 setting recently, when I gave a workshop to 40 school principals, it was so interesting to me that the phrase they said they were most tired of hearing was returning to normal because they don't want to go back to the way things were pre pandemic as well. And I was gratified by that. We'll see how it turns out, but I also know that the change process can really be hard because even after all the disruption that the pandemic caused at institutions with storied histories and legacies and traditions, it's hard to move that inertia in a meaningful way. So I'm excited to chat with our guest today. David Thomas, president of Morehouse college before Morehouse David was Dean of Georgetown's business school. And before that he was a professor at the Harvard business school where fun little fact, he was the first class I ever sat in on as a prospective student. So David, welcome to future you. It's great to be in person with you. Thank you, Michael. It's great to be here. Great to see you again,

Jeff Selingo (02:55):

Jeff. It's good to see you again too, David, you know, a question that we, we typically to ask to get us started is your own career story about how you got into higher ed and now how you ended up at, as president at Morehouse

Speaker 4 (03:09):

Try to make a long story short. I came out of undergraduate having gone in wanting to be a lawyer because I thought lawyers change the world. And while I was there, I discovered an area called organizational behavior. And it was all about how organizations change and people change in the context of the organizations they belong to. And I got engaged with it with no real intention of winding up a president or professor at the places that I became a professor at and just really followed the theme of how could I use my particular gifts and skills to try and be part of creating change. And you know, one of my skills was analytic ability and that drew me to what's required to be you know excellent academic

Jeff Selingo (04:08):

It's interesting, David is that I worked on a piece a couple of years ago about pathways to the presidency. And in one of the things that we looked at is we had this data on CVS of like 800 presidents and we saw increasingly a lot of them were coming from Dean ships directly to the, to the presidency. So could you talk a little bit for maybe a second about how how deans are prepared now to be presidents maybe in a way that they weren't people didn't think they were, that they had to make that stop at the provost office, for example?

Speaker 4 (04:40):

Well, if you know, when I look at it, the job of a Dean in particular at a major school is actually more similar to the job of a president than is the provost job. Because it's usually the deans who are really, you know, focused on fundraising much more so than the provost. And it's a, it's a multi constituency role. Dean spent a lot more time externally than do provost, right? So alumni identify with their schools. So the only thing that you really have to learn when you become a president at most places that you haven't been exposed to in most Dean ships is the general management part of it. So when I was Dean at Georgetown, I didn't have to worry about the building. You know, when plumbing didn't work, people didn't call me as president, literally it all falls under me. And so you have to learn that general management role, but I think the requirement for presidents to become much more proactive in multi constituency work goes right with the job of a Dean and it makes us much more viable.

Michael Horn (05:52):

It makes a lot of sense as we dig in a little bit let's level set for the audience about Morehouse looked like last year in terms of remote hybrid in person and what your plans are, it's August right now for the fall, for the fall of this year.

Speaker 4 (06:06):

Right? So what we looked like last year during COVID, we were 100% remote. And in two weeks in March, we closed down the schools campus operations occasional operations and move totally online and went fully online this past year. And, and in that time we had all of our faculty certified to do online education in the spring semester that just ended, we had about a quarter of our residential capacity up and running and that was sort of our test run in some ways for what we're going to do starting this week as we speak students are arriving on the Morehouse campus and they will all be in by Thursday. We will be operating our on-campus campus operations with about 70% of our courses being delivered fully in person and the rest being delivered in a hybrid format. We also probably the biggest change at Morehouse right now is that this month we will start the first classes of our new online degree program. So Morehouse for the first time in 154 years, we'll have another modality in which it's delivering degrees.

Jeff Selingo (07:43):

What we want to talk about that in a minute, but I think that in the rush to remote learning and doing things differently, it's probably easier to list some of the things that everybody would like to discard after the pandemic is over whenever that might be, but, but also institutions have learned lessons and practices that they probably want to keep and double down on. You know, so what are the ones that you're seeking to double down on that you've learned over the last 17 months? Why are they so important in your mind and what are they addressing that you see as, as issues that Morehouse has to tackle,

Speaker 4 (08:20):

Just start with our on campus program. One is, is very clear to me that our faculty, many of whom were skeptical about online learning have learned that even for our on-campus residential program, there are ways to use technology and online learning to enhance it. So this concept that was in Vogue a few years ago called flipping the classroom, so that in the classroom, you're doing the highest value add work, which is actually not giving the same lecture that you've given for 20 years. Yeah. But it's really applying, what's useful about that knowledge to what's happening now, helping students think critically we have faculty who have just moved fully into that, into that space and that won't stop. I'll give you another great example. We were part of an experiment in our chemistry department for doing virtual labs.

Speaker 4 (09:24):

So our students had 3d equipment and they were doing the same labs that they would do in class in this 3d format, hugely successful. Wow. creates a lot of leverage and flexibility for what we can now do in our labs, including for a school that's, you know, not highly resource like Morehouse. We can, we can create the same virtual lab that, that exists at MIT for our students to work in. So we can reduce some of the gap that just has to do with resources between different schools, by leveraging this kind of technology and we're, you know fully embracing it as an administration and really supporting our most innovative faculty. I think it's going to be transformative on on a host of levels.

Michael Horn (10:22):

It's pretty compelling. Right. And then on the other side, you've mentioned the full online degree, but Morehouse isn't just noteworthy for going with an online degree. It's an undergraduate online degree, which a lot of traditional institutions have not dared to venture. And a lot of the online program managers like to you that you're partnered with have not gone there. So this is breaking ground on a number of fronts. What are you excited about this and why is it an important initiative?

Speaker 4 (10:48):

I'm excited about it for a number of reasons, what we're targeting, what we had Morehouse called non-traditional students, which means they are, they are 25 and older, so it's not cannibalizing what we do on campus. We're continuing to be a men's college in our admissions for our online program. And we are particularly focused on men in the black and Latino communities. So we see this as part of extending our mission. And we asked ourselves the question, how can Morehouse be greater in the 21st century than it was in the 20th, which is a hard task because if you know, Martin Luther King's our most famous graduate and we produce people in every industry at the highest levels. And so we looked at some of the things that were happening in the world that just say that access to a degree continues to be important, 80% of the jobs that are advertised today, that would be coded as that will create a sustainable middle-class upper middle-class living require four year degree. And while there are efforts to get people to modulate or moderate on that requirement, the world's not going to change overnight. So it creates opportunity. And we're, we're, we're really working hard at designing the program in a way that also instills the values and uniqueness of Morehouse college. So for me, it's about really expanding and deepening our impact on the world.

Jeff Selingo (12:31):

And this is part of a larger strategic plan that you have, right. Can you tell us a little bit about that plan and the, the intent behind it?

Speaker 4 (12:38):

Yeah, the intent behind it is really to to set a course for our continuing to, to be a major force in shaping the way the world evolves consistent with our values that are rooted in social justice, access opportunity and a particular commitment to the black community and culture. And so our strategic plan has four sort of planks to it. And it's really about the future. It's not about fixing what needs to be fixed today, but it's about the future. One is accelerating our excellence, focused on the things that lots of places are focused on, you know, graduating every student data analytics, driving, you know, our counseling and et cetera, et cetera. But the second area is an important one to us and it's called partnerships of purpose. And it's our recognizing that we can't do everything that our students need or that we can do for the world by ourselves.

Speaker 4 (13:51):

And so really being focused on developing deep partnerships with institutions that share our values to do things in a, in a, in a scaled way and accelerated way. Our partnership with two U is a great example. It would have taken us 10 years to build that capacity by partnering with them. We'll have a, roughly, I think a 250 or 300 students in this, in this opening class. And what we've learned is you know, the possibilities for scaling that are, are, are amazing. We're, we're also engaging in partnerships to think about how to use our real estate assets. We have two great assets, our brand, which is connected to our quality of education, and we have land in one of the most dynamic places on the planet for, for real estate development and that's Atlanta and looking at other areas in which we can partner.

Speaker 4 (15:00):

Third is Morehouse beyond borders. And that is our intentionally looking at how we take Morehouse to the world and what we're trying to do on online connects to that, you know for the first time in 154 years, we're delivering education in a different modality than we ever did before right for 54 years for 154 years, it was coming to campus spend three years, three to six years, and then go out and change the world. Now we're going to the world, we're creating a program around educational excellence that is designed to increase the pipeline of black men going into higher education, both Morehouse students and other students will have certificate programs, degree programs for our students and others, and to be a center of excellence around the issues that disproportionately affect the probabilities of long-term success and wellbeing for, for black men in the country.

Speaker 4 (16:04):

And then third, our fourth is elevating the mission and that is really connected to cornering the resources we need as a small liberal arts college. So we're launching a $500 million campaign. That's now in the silent phase, we've raised a little over $200 million in the last three and a half years. So we've only got half way to go. We're expecting that. We'll probably raise that to a billion, which will be historic for historically black colleges and we're aggressively re-imagining our physical place. And that includes also re-imagining our infrastructure and key to that is technology.

Michael Horn (16:59):

So building on all that work, as you stepped into the presidency at Morehouse in 2017, I think it's fair to say that HBC use have been in the news a significant amount. There's a lot of attention from the U S presidents. It's sort of a political opportunity and opportunism, I think probably an equal measure in some cases, but I'm just curious, you know, we've gone through not just the pandemic, but also conversations about race that had been swept aside before we'll see about the action that follows on from that. But, you know, as you look into the landscape of HBC use more broadly, so not just Morehouse, and it seems to me that there's a bunch of institutions now that are trying to not just work on their legacy of what they've done, but also stretch those boundaries and interesting and novel ways. And I'm just curious your perspective on that, but also the imperative to see innovation among HBC use right now.

Speaker 4 (17:56):

I think the observation is absolutely right. There are a group of HBC use I would count Morehouse among them that are now re-imagining how we continue to add value for us going into the online space. And it's an interesting thing when I decided to go into the online space, I actually didn't know that among colleges with significant undergraduate brands, we were actually leading. I thought lots of people where they, I didn't even stop to look right. And you know I see other schools thinking in new ways about what we're doing and, and again, how we leverage what is a significant educational reputation and credibility in particular with a population that has been underserved by higher education that today knows less about HBC use even in the black community than they did in the 1960s and seventies when I was applying to college.

Speaker 4 (19:05):

And we're also, I think, opening ourselves up in terms of partnering with predominantly white institutions to do significant activities. So for example we are moving into a partnership with Johns Hopkins around increasing the pipeline of underrepresented minorities who go and get PhDs in the sciences and in particularly the medical related fields. Well, that's the way to amp what Morehouse has been doing for years. We're the largest producer of men with black pH black men with PhDs in stem fields that exists. But to continue that right, we said, okay, we, we, we need to partner to amplify that. Right. and I, I see that happening across the landscape and seeing HBC use just rethink, you know, their models. A great example of that is what's happened at Paul Quinn which isn't, you know as well resourced as Morehouse serves has a different student mix and they just totally rethought their entire model. And that, that's what we're seeing at a number of schools.

Jeff Selingo (20:31):

As we wrap up here, I want to kind of go back to something that when Morehouse was really in the news was a couple of years ago when in 2019, a commencement speaker you know, Robert F. Smith announced that you pay off all the loans of the, of the graduates of the class. And then I think later on said the parent debt as well on that more recently you announced that you would use some of the higher education relief fund to clear debts for students for, for a couple of years. I mean, one of the big issues though has been this kind of intergenerational debt particularly among students at HB [inaudible] with parent plus loans and things like that, because, you know, the resources to go to higher education are huge everywhere. But but increasingly at you know, HBC use in particular parent plus loans have been higher than, than at predominantly white institutions. Yep. What as we think about you know, education debt, particularly among black students, how should we ensure that? How can you think, do you think that HBCUs and Morehouse in particular could ensure that we're not, you know, to get these degrees that we're not putting parents in debt as well as students? How are you thinking about the debt picture? So,

Speaker 4 (21:50):

So the way we're thinking about it at Morehouse is kind of in three buckets, one is addressing directly the loan of the, the, the loan question. So Morehouse has become a partner in a new initiative called the S the, the, the student freedom initiative that was an outgrowth of Robert Smith's initial gift to us when he relieved that debt of those students in 2019. But it led to a conversation about, you know, how would you scale this idea that now we've put on the map in terms of the need to reduce it, that's going to be a program funded by philanthropic dollars, creates a pool of money. We're going to initially start by offering it to stem students. And it will be an alternative to parent plus loans. It gets paid back tied to students' income. The money goes back into the fund, so the fund will become self-sustaining.

Speaker 4 (22:55):

So it's a philanthropic effort, and that's focused on, I think at this point there are nine HBC use in the initial group, and lots of interest is developing in terms of scaling that in a number of institutions are doing it. Second is you know, trying to address the big gap. If you look at the schools that a college like Morehouse competes with, especially in terms of outcomes, right? I like to say, you know, I've, I've been associated with a number of major brands in higher education. I went to Yale, I taught and Columbia I taught at Penn, I taught at Harvard. I was Dean of Georgetown. And the difference between those schools and Morehouse, because, you know, on one hand they've all created a precedent, but we created Martin Luther king. So we think we're equal. The big gap is they all have billions of dollars plus in endowment.

Speaker 4 (23:53):

And we don't know. So how do we begin to address that? We're addressing that with the last fundraising, with this fundraising. And what we're seeing with that is philanthropists. Now, beginning to think about HBC is the same way that they think about those other schools. So you may know Reed Hastings and his wife had net, you know, the founder of Netflix gave us a $40 million gift to fund scholarships. We've, we've gotten more eight figure gifts in the last three years than in the entire history of the college. That's also the case at a few other historically black colleges like Spelman and Howard. So there's something happening in the philanthropic space that we think is influencing this. And, and, and part of that is bringing our alumni to, to, to, to give more. And the third piece is alternative streams of revenue.

Speaker 4 (24:57):

And we're moving headlong into that with our partnership of purpose focused. Part of it is focused on, for example, how do we monetize our land holdings? We can't do it by ourselves, but we can do it with partners. This move into the online space is another way of, of, of expanding our alternative revenues and then finding ways to you know, the fourth is, is, is what we've been doing, the, what, you know, all along, which is trying to minimize and manage the cost of of higher education for our students. And probably the last variable is also influencing some of the inequity in legislation and the way legislation has doled out money to historically black colleges in, in particular, the public colleges, you know, you may be aware of the lawsuit that was settled in Maryland. There's one in Tennessee that says that the historically black colleges they're owed about $500 million because of the inequity in the way that funds were given to them that were written into policy. It was just somebody decided that TSU didn't deserve the same formula to be applied equally across, was applied to to all the other institutions. So those are the things that that we're working on. And, and yeah, that's, that's what I would say. Well,

Jeff Selingo (26:34):

David Thomas, thank you so much for being with us here on, on future. You, and we'll be right back

Speaker 4 (26:39):

After this break. All right. Well, thank you.

Jeff Selingo (26:43):

Oh, welcome

Michael Horn (26:43):

Back to future you after an interview chock full of a lot of information, Jeff.

Jeff Selingo (26:49):

Yeah. I mean, I think David has such a varied background and in, in, from a professor to a Dean and now president, and so there's, there's so much to pick apart.

Michael Horn (27:00):

Yeah, I think that's right. And so I want to get right into a few elements. Jeff, because I was taken with president, Thomas' answer to your question about what Morehouse will keep from the year of being mostly virtual during the pandemic, and in particular, his comments about how faculty now actually understand the value of flipping the classroom to focus on the highest value added activity when they're together with students, rather than giving the same old lecture. And that really resonated. And it's something that maybe you can only appreciate as a faculty member once you've actually done. It was one takeaway I had. And then the second was his comments around virtual labs really stuck with me because they've always been intriguing to me because they increase the capacity of schools with relatively low marginal costs to basically offer an incredible experience, to do experience experiments that in many cases they'd never otherwise be able to do unless they were at a place like an MIT or, or a Harvard.

Michael Horn (27:58):

And as David said, it gives a school like Morehouse that has relatively less resources than those types of schools. A lot of leverage to create far more robust experiences for its students. And w when I was at entangled, we invested in a company called lobster that provides these sorts of experiences. And it was just a parent that from an educational perspective, the opportunities there I think are quite significant, but more generally, I guess I was just taken with how savvy it seems Morehouse as being in implementing online learning is what I would call sustaining innovation, right. To improve what they're currently doing. And we can put up beside the other work in a moment, but I'm curious your take in particular, if you think that schools are being this thoughtful, as we heard David being, or are most going to go back to what they were doing before the pandemic, Jeff. Yeah.

Jeff Selingo (28:50):

I don't know if most are going to go back to go doing what they're doing before the pandemic, but I think it's, there's, there's two schools of thought around this. It's either going to be hit or miss with the faculty basically leading the effort. So the faculty that were either ahead of the game before the pandemic or those that really jumped into the game during the pandemic in terms of being more digitally oriented or those that want to go back, or there's going to be the other school of thought here is, is more intentional like Morehouse. I'm thinking recently I was on a webcast with Jennifer Sparrow. Who's a deputy CIO at Penn state and it's part of their strategic plan. It's Penn state to be more digitally oriented, right? So that's a more intentional way of thinking about this. And it's not only, by the way, we tend to thought talk about big data in a higher education.

Jeff Selingo (29:36):

It was something that Mark Becker talked to last season from Georgia state on, on the podcast. But one of the things that Jennifer Sparrow talked about on this pod on this webinar was the power of small data that we could glean from even simple things like the learning management system. And so on this webinars, she was showing all these different dashboards that they're giving to faculty around the digital digital breadcrumbs they're collecting from, from students and including one that I thought was fascinating that they're experimenting with, with natural language that basically shows in classroom recordings of faculty, how many questions they get through during class. And you could actually just look at it at a, at a quick glance. It almost looks like a barcode. So the more questions they have more lines every time there's a question, and you could just look at all the classes you're teaching, and you can say, wow, that class has like no lines.

Jeff Selingo (30:29):

Nobody's asking questions. And they're in this class, there's all these questions, by the way. You know, we're, there's a lot of lines in one area around this particular point I was trying to make, and again, a small data point around questions, but then a faculty member could basically go in there and try to figure out what's happening with their, with their classes. So I think that's what I mean about being intentional at the institutional level. But the, the vast majority I fear is kind of being left up left up to the faculty. And as I said, there's nothing wrong with faculty led efforts, but that's going to lead to an uneven experience for students. And an uneven experience for faculty won't learn with from each other. I think we're really missing a time right now, where we could have a spread of innovation across institutions if we had more intentional direction from the leadership level of, of institutions. But, but you know, we're going to have to see Michael. So with that said, I wanted to pick up on a different thing. We talked to David about, which was this partnership between Morehouse in two year. What are, what are your thoughts on that?

Michael Horn (31:36):

Yeah, I th I thought David's answer here really stood on its own. In many ways. It can't be overstated. I think what a significant development it is for a school with Morehouse's brand and reputation to be offering an online undergraduate degree program. It's highly unusual as he said, you know, it's not the first obviously, or the only one, but it's among them. And that there'll be serving 250 to 300 students in the first year in the program. In my mind, that's a huge win. I, you know, it's roughly half of Morehouse's class size and its traditional on-ground programs. So I think that's off to a great start from my perspective. And as David said, I think more broadly, this is part of a movement of HBCUs that are taking some bold steps to go beyond their legacies and try to do things differently that are really fit for the time in which we're living.

Michael Horn (32:26):

And look, I think we're going to have to keep an eye Jeff on whether this blow back, you know, from alums and faculty members, because I, you know, look when you go beyond traditions and I won't necessarily say appending them, but when you go beyond them, it's not clear that things will always be smooth sailing on a higher ed campus. And, and I think we'll see some of that, you know, given that they have these legacies of educating the Dr Kings of the world as David reminded us. And, but toward all of that, I guess I was also struck Jeff, how thoughtful, you know, this move with two U is in the context of the strategic plan that is completely future focused. And you know, this isn't just like launching an online undergraduate program, Willy nilly and thinking, gee, it's going to bring in more revenue and that's the end of it. Like it's deeply integrated into the fabric of all of these efforts that they're doing toward bringing more house into the future. Jeff.

Jeff Selingo (33:20):

Yeah. And I think that's an important point, Michael, and I think it kind of leads us into a little game if you will, that I want to play and looking at the four pillars of Morehouse's strategic plan and ask you to make maybe a recommendation of who some of our past guests on future, you might be the ideal person to talk about it. And we kind of have an ulterior motive here, I think because, you know, this is our 86th episode. I think so we want to have people, it is kind of crazy which means we're going to do our hundredth episode this year. We have to start to think about that. But we you know, there's a great library of previous episodes that we would hope folks would come to listen to. So let's let's start this game. So the first pillar was realizing excellence, which is about things like investing in data analytics to improve retention in the, like, which of our past guests on future. You would say, if this is of interest to your campus, you should go talk to this person.

Michael Horn (34:12):

Yeah. You know, this one feels like a no brainer to me, Jeff. And I'm sure you agree, which is Mark Becker, a former president of Georgia state. You mentioned him before. He was a guest last year on future you, and he's clearly the right person in my mind, they've done so much with data analytics to improve retention and graduation and close achievement gaps. So if, if I was looking to talk to someone, he would be number one on my list.

Jeff Selingo (34:35):

Yeah. I think that's a good one. And how about partnerships of purpose? That was the next pillar in the in the Morehouse plan. Who do you got for that?

Michael Horn (34:44):

Yeah, so I think, you know, chip pal sec CEO of two U is probably the obvious choice here. He's past guest on future you, and especially given the two you partnership with Morehouse, but if you're willing to let me, I'm going to throw two more names in this one as well. Just because I think John Katzman from noodle here who was on our port podcast toward the end of season three during the pandemic the intentionality that he brings to partnerships with universities and how those have evolved over time. I think it's an interesting insight. And then the honorary mention I'll throw in you know, we've had Paul Friedman several times on future U he's now at Guild education, obviously where I've spent a lot of time, but I think his window into what universities are trying to accomplish through different types of partnerships. And I'm more viewing this through his portfolio of entrepreneurial activities over time. I think he would have a lot of insights for universities as well about how to structure.

Jeff Selingo (35:37):

Yeah, of course we couldn't have chip and John in the same room. Of course.

Michael Horn (35:40):

No, I suppose not.

Jeff Selingo (35:43):

Okay. So next up Morehouse behind on borders, who would you put up there?

Michael Horn (35:47):

Yeah, this is another close one for me, Jeff, you know, Mitch, Daniel, Scott, Pulsifer all, all really good ones, but I think I'll go with Paula Blanca from Southern New Hampshire university from season four, just given how much he's reinvented S and H U and, and, and the work that they continue to do to constantly be pushing the boundaries of what that campus looks like.

Jeff Selingo (36:09):

And and then the last one, of course, which is elevating the mission.

Michael Horn (36:12):

Yeah. So on this one, I'll go with actually pat McGuire, president of Trinity Washington university that claims Nancy Pelosi among its alums. And she was on season one of our future you podcast. And I'll choose her just with the thought that she did a lot of great thinking about what really is Trinity's mission, and what's the best way to preserve and strengthen that mission while staying small. And I just thought the intentionality Jeff behind that really stood apart and would be a great one to talk to as people think about elevating the mission.

Jeff Selingo (36:46):

Yeah. So pretty interesting game there. And hopefully people will go back into our archives. I kind of forgot that pat McGuire was way back in season one. Just a, a great president longtime president at Trinity Washington university. We're not going to see a lot of longtime presidents like that. And so definitely go back to, to look at that, that season. But before we move to an audience question, I wanted to dig a bit more into the student loan and parent plus loans question that I asked David because, you know, there's this wall street journal piece recently about how black students or black graduates with college degrees was really supposed to close the wealth gap between those who went to college and those who didn't. And that really hasn't happened. And in particularly the wealth gap between white college graduates and black college graduates, you know, more than in, and just pull some stats from that wall street journal piece.

Jeff Selingo (37:40):

And again, in the show notes, we'll put a link to that piece, you know, more than 84% of college educated black households in their thirties have student debt up from 35%, three decades ago when, when maybe when many baby boomers are at the same age, this younger generation owns owes a median debt of 44,000, which is up from less than 6,000 back then meanwhile black graduates household income has grown a lot more slowly than those of college graduates in general, according to this wall street journal analysis of census data, median income for black college educated households in their thirties increased 7% from the early 1990s to the late 2010s to about 76,000 while income for their white corn counterparts, rose 13% to about 144, or I'm sorry, 114,000. So this idea that it's okay to take on more debt in college because the your income is going to grow substantially, I don't think is necessarily the case for, for graduates of for black graduates. And I think that we just need to be careful around that argument. What were your thoughts on, on that answer?

Michael Horn (38:55):

Yeah, well, first, I mean, the, the stats that you brought up were certainly sobering Jeff, I think it's fair to say. And I think point to a larger set of reasons that there's populations, right, that have significant questions around the value of higher education. On that note, I thought it was super interesting that David spoke about the income share agreement that, that Morehouse and other HBC use have banded together and created what David referred to in essence is what I've called in my writing a renewable learning fund. But I thought it was interesting that he didn't use the phrase income share agreement to describe what they've created. And there could be a branding element there given the mixed reception to ISA has politically, particularly on the left. But, but that said, I think it's fascinating that they've put this together and I suspect will be something that a lot of institutions pay very close attention to, to see how it, how it will go.

Michael Horn (39:51):

And, you know, in particular, it'll be interesting to see how some of the concerns around ISS the fact that if students do well out of college, they'll pay more back in than they would have under a loan. For example, how institutions like Morehouse to scribe that coming out of this initiative, because I tend to think of an ISA essentially as a great form of insurance against the potential for a bad investment which is the implication, right? That there's a lot of students, black students for whom college hasn't paid off in those wall street journal stats and many who, who would probably has paid off quite well. And so in my mind, if it's paid off well, you know, students shouldn't mind paying more for that degree if it really pays off. So I think having leading HBC use do this prominently could lead to a lot more programs like it in the future, if it goes well.

Michael Horn (40:43):

And I personally would certainly prefer to see that than just traditional scholarship philanthropy, because in my mind that sort of philanthropy is less sustainable over time where, whereas you know, this could really create a renewable source of funding to bring individuals in with very little downside risk, which I think could be quite significant Jeff, but we'll, we'll obviously have to stay tuned. And that's probably the perfect segue actually to leave it there with our reactions, to David's comments and turn to audience questions. And we got quite a few from our, our, our outreach Jeff. So for those listening, keep them coming. Don't always feel like you have to wait for us to ask for them if you have something pop off in the in the Twitter sphere and let us know. But today, Jeff, I want to take one from Scott Benson of the new schools venture fund who asked, is advanced placement still useful and relevant? Should we reconsider how high school students earn college credit and Jeff, this seemed right up your alley. So I would love your take.

Jeff Selingo (41:49):

Yes. And thanks for those audience questions and really keep them coming. As you mentioned on social media, email us go to the future, your a webpage. We're going to be doing this as a, as a weekly segment now or, and not a weekly segment in every episode segment. So definitely keep those coming. But in terms of advanced placement, I think especially among the more selective colleges not from a, you know, a one-to-one credit bearing piece, right? Because most of those credits usually just go for general credits. Sometimes they don't even give credits, but from an admission standpoint, they're definitely still looking at AP as a, as a, as a way into the institution, but in terms of high school credit in general, to me, and this is not necessarily as relevant in admissions because they don't, they don't love dual enrollment and admissions from a an academic rigor point of view.

Jeff Selingo (42:41):

They'd like AP more than that, or IB, because it's associated with these Neo national tests or international standards where dual enrollment isn't. And it's just basically how good is the institution where you're doing rolled, but from a, a standpoint of helping students kind of get ahead in college or get ready for college, or in some cases do get real credit that they can use in college. I think that we really need to rethink particularly the senior year of high school. Once students are mostly through the admissions process, how can we particularly use the spring and maybe even the summer to get students a little bit of a head start in college. That to me is where we really should focus our efforts right now, because I think, you know, many students could come into this fall of their first year of college, which a lot of credit if we were more efficiently using the spring of their senior year, when a lot is not happening and increasingly the summer between their senior year and they're in their junior year.

Michael Horn (43:45):

So perfect answer, Jeff. And I think that's a great place to wrap it up. It raises a bunch more questions for me that I want to dig in with you on future episodes, but we'll leave it there for now. And thanks as always for listening to us on future you as we jump in head first into season five, and with that, we'll see you next time.

Speaker 1 (44:17):


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