Guest colum: Bill Gates may not have a degree, but most of his employees do

Morning folks. I am on the road, but wanted to post this column by Avi Bhuiyan, a student at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and his father, Mohammad Bhuiyan,  the 2011-12 ACE Fellow at the University System of Georgia and Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship at FSU.


By 2020, it’s projected that more than 60 percent of the jobs in Georgia will require some form of a college education. Today, that number is only 42 percent.

Higher education has taken its lumps recently. Critics often accuse it of failing to give students “real world” skills that translate to their careers, noting that if a Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates can start a powerhouse company with no degree, why all the fuss about getting a college degree? Furthermore, given the high unemployment rate of college grads and ever-increasing rates of tuition, isn’t it time that we as a nation re-evaluate our attitude towards pursuing higher education?

But how many of those entrepreneurs without degrees, from Gates to Zuckerberg, staff their companies with people who lack college degrees? The backbone of a company is a highly trained workforce. This is precisely why so many companies spend vast amounts of time and money recruiting on college campuses.

Limiting access to American higher education is a recipe for economic failure, not entrepreneurial growth. America is increasingly finding itself in competition with China, India, and Brazil.

Yet in one area, America remains unchallenged as No. 1 in the world — higher education. America’s colleges and universities are the crown jewels of global postsecondary education. At a time when other countries with bustling economies are rushing to develop their postsecondary education systems, it seems curious to consider de-emphasizing the role of America’s prized colleges and universities in the national economy.

The value of a college degree is rising. A recent College Board study found that in 2008 the median salaries of women and men ages 25 to 34 with a college degree were 79 percent and 74 percent higher than peers with only high school diplomas. Moreover, unemployment rates for the college-educated have consistently stayed significantly lower than those who are not college educated.

Campuses offer real skills, as well as intangible benefits. Much of the intangible benefit of college is what makes it so unique. At almost no other point in life can one be exposed for an extended period to a self-contained ecosystem of educated, self-motivated peers who share so much and yet so little in common.

A college education trains a student to think critically and hone her ability to articulate herself. These skills are invaluable, practical and, most importantly, future-proof. As any start-up business owner can tell you, one of the greatest assets to a budding entrepreneur is the ability to understand an exceptional challenge and be able to react nimbly and intelligently to solve it with limited resources and incomplete information. Sharp reasoning and effective problem-solving skills are a must in today’s economy, and these skills are the centerpiece of the American college experience.

All this being said, challenges regarding tuition and calls for more effective ways to prepare students for entrepreneurship and the workforce in general are reasonable concerns for American institutes of higher learning. The idea of an entrepreneurship class which culminates with participation in a national business competition judged by industry leaders, rather than a multiple-choice exam, for example, certainly has merit. Yet, these should be seen as opportunities for improvement, and not barriers to justify dissuading America’s youth from pursuing higher education.

Georgia and America have the opportunity to meet the challenge of today’s global economic challenges and the current recession by doubling down on its world-class education infrastructure or by cutting back and hoping that raw intuition and potential will trump finely honed ingenuity and skill. The latter is a bet that both Georgia and America simply can’t afford to make.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

15 comments Add your comment

[...] Today is a college page, with an interview I did with the author of a new book about how to be yourself and still get into college. There is also a commentary on the sustaining value of a degree and the pre-eminence of U.S. campuses. [...]

Top School

November 21st, 2011
10:23 am

The CURRENT corporate mentality of the LITTLE IVIES has already damaged our economy . That’s why the 1% involved in Occupy Wall Street did not graduate from ELITE SCHOOLS. This name dropping prostitution is a sick idea of success. It continues to corrupt our NATION.

Bill Gates modeled hard work and determination. Education is part of that process…but he understood that it was not the foundation. Success is multifaceted. Most of our young folk believe once they have the diploma from the school with a name …they have reached the pinnacle of SUCCESS. In most cases many will never gain anything because they are still depending on “mommy and diddy” to bail them out of any challenge they encounter. (most of Buckhead)

In reality our schools pimp these young people to sell their soul to the same mentality behind the corruption in Atlanta Public Schools. The Buckhead MACHINE has bought the current leaders in APS with all their pretentious name dropping influence. They teach AND model the CORRUPT behaviors needed to sell their souls to the IVIES.

Bill Gates was a role model for young people. He taught them… they did not need the name dropping titles to achieve success. He encouraged them to figure out their dreams in spite of what they perceived as formal EDUCATION. If the young minds “GOT IT” along the way…and received a diploma…without being sucked into the politics of EDUCATION they left the formal school house door with the determination, drive, and ethics needed to achieve REAL SUCCESS.

It amazes me how enslaved WE are without recognizing it. OR ARE we IGNORING IT? Our NATION will surely crumble as the EDUCATION HOUSE teaches our young people with false illusions of SUCCESS…Some of us are not blinded by the smoke and mirrors… as the beat goes on with SACS ACCREDITATIONS and the laughable PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS COMMISSION.

And yes, ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS has contributed to this false success. Almost 1 YEAR LATER and still those in positions of authority have not been charged with any wrong doing. What role models have we given our children? Nothing has changed … no leader has been held accountable. APS = Wall Street…They walk hand in hand as they rape our NATION.

Jerry Eads

November 21st, 2011
10:59 am

What a pretty piece of work. Had the good fortune this morning to be able to wait out the fog and read the hard copy of this. Very nicely written, Messrs. Bhuiyan. We can only hope your words have some impact on those who seem so bent on ruining our education system.

science teacher

November 21st, 2011
12:03 pm

The reason we keep hearing all the negativity about higher education is the same reason we keep hearing all the negativity about public education in general. An educated workforce demands higher pay and higher compensation. Other countries, especially China and India, are slowly catching up education wise and their workers are beginning to demand higher pay. These corporations are looking for a country in which they can find workers cheaper. If they can’t find one, they are not above creating one. The problem is that people are beginning to see through their designs. However, they already control our government, thus the extreme responses in some areas to the Occupy Wall Street protests. I fear we may be living in interesting times.


November 21st, 2011
1:25 pm

Maybe salaries of college graduates are higher, but will there be enough of those such jobs to go around? If they are more employable than non-college persons, will their pay necessarily be higher? That’s why I think many people have begun questioning employment options when they consider the high tuition, fees, and loans of higher education.


November 21st, 2011
1:40 pm

Top School wrote:

“Bill Gates was a role model for young people. He taught them… they did not need the name dropping titles to achieve success.”

Bill Gates was born into a wealthy and influential family. He graduated from an exclusive prep school and attended Harvard. It’s true he elected to drop out of Harvard to pursue his personal goals and was highly successful in this endeavor. However, I think he was extremely well equipped with the knowledge, skills, social contacts and business know-how he had acquired from his highly privileged background up until that point, also quite obviously, he hardly had to worry about starving if his entrepreneurial venture did not work out.

How all this makes him a “role model” for young people of less privileged background considering whether or not a college education is right for them, beats me. And let’s not forget that the Gates Foundation seems tremendously intent on getting under-privileged youth into college, not promoting alternative paths to success!


November 21st, 2011
5:57 pm

“Guest colum: Bill Gates may not have a degree, but most of his employees do”

Funny, an education blogger can’t even spell (colum needs an “n” dummy).

Jerry Eads

November 21st, 2011
6:55 pm

Fascinating that this gets virtually no attention, as opposed to the ‘cheating’ entries. @Science Teadher: absolutely brilliant insight. We are currently losing “jobs” to the Asian (including India) cultures. As their “college educated” workers begin to demand higher incomes, those companies will in turn seek employees from other countries to feed the lower income spiral to stay competitive for their American contracts. Earthlink now contracts to India for 24/7 tech support; those Indian companies will soon look to ? countries to pass on the connection to connect Earthlink to evenn lower paid yet equally competent respondents. I’ve been in front of main frames since the 60’s, yet I was both pleased and awed at the competence of an Earthlink contractor in India (his time 4 a.m.) to fix something I didn’t understand. Who will he lose his job to?

Jerry Eads

November 21st, 2011
6:57 pm

@ charrise, cut folks some slack. This is a blog, with lotsa typos.Cutting folks down for a random keystroke doesn’t count.


November 21st, 2011
7:20 pm

@Charrice, if you are going to be so insulting of someone else’s mistake, make sure you have no mistakes yourself.


November 21st, 2011
9:50 pm

Mr. J. Harwood Cochrane founded Overnite Transportation Co. when he dropped out of 5th grade and grew the company to be worth two billion dollars. It is now owned by UPS. His method was to hire people who were smarte than he was. He is still living and is about 100 years old. I worked for him in 1953 and confided that I had a problem with spelling. He advise that I hire a smart secretary.

Truth in Moderation

November 22nd, 2011
12:13 am

More and more jobs will be replaced with technology, such as robotics. It will be doing the grunt work unskilled labor did in the past. Now, however, more and more “white collar” jobs will be replaced with expert systems. Only a few with college degrees, rather than many, will be needed. The growing red shirt expendable population will be “expended”.
Get ahead of the curve! Order your red shirt today….


November 23rd, 2011
12:15 pm

Gates saw an opportunity and knew it wouldn’t wait for him to finish his degree. He left college and worked his tail off to make Microsoft a success. If you called MS during the early 80’s for product support, he even answered the after hours line. No one can argue with his success but it came from a lot of different factors, intelligence, determination, etc.

The question I wonder is what would he have done had MS failed? Would he have gone back to school? Would he have tried another concept? No one will know but my bet is he would have gone back to school. Why? Because he has shown over time that he values education. He has surrounded himself with well educated people who can assist him with his various ventures.

More to the point of the article, as more technology goes mainstream, people will develop the ability to use it without receiving a formal education on the technology. When I broke into computers in the 70’s, most people didn’t learn to type. Now, most high schools assume students know how to type and use email. In the 70’s computer science majors took classes on individual computer languages like Fortan or PL. Now, they are expected to know C++ or Java when they enroll. Expectations change.

America’s university systems are the best in the world and one reason is because they continually raise the bar of success. One way of doing this is through competition. In the 70’s, few applicants understood computer languages so the schools had to teach them. Now, most applicants have been exposed to some language (HTML, Perl, PHP, etc.) so the schools have come to assume a higher level of skills at the time of enrollment.

The real challenge is to prepare the next generation for the Universities of tomorrow. These students will need to be able to read, etc. but they must also be prepared to process information. This has always been the case and it will continue to be so. This comes from a well rounded education that includes not just reading and math skills but the application of such skills through other subjects commonly called the liberal arts.

If our k-12 schools are teaching to the test instead of challenging our kids to process informtion and formulate ideas, our kids will not be prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow. Its great to predict that a higher percentage of tomorrow’s workers will need a college education, but predicting the future is fraut with errors.

The one thing we can agree on is our kids will face challenges that we have not predicted, and they will need to figure out how to be successful. The basics of reading and math will be required but so will the ability to apply those skills with logic to problems so they can develop solutions. If you can predict the problems of tomorrow, put them on the test and teach the test. If you can’t, then teach children to problem solve.

Top School

November 24th, 2011
12:38 pm


I like your point of view…
You are right on time with the GATES FOUNDATION.

and as for a college education…they have made a money making racket out of that too.
The graduates end up owing more money than they can ever pay back.
The bank owns them before they every get a job. Debt on top of dept.

There is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.
And those savvy at working the systems will reap the most monetary rewards.

This “idea” of FAST MONEY and SHORT TERM success is crushing our nation.

[...] Bhuiyan is a law student at The University of Texas. This piece was originally published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Image courtesy the McCombs School of [...]