George Mason University President Gregory Washington provides insight on the challenges faced by America’s system of higher education.


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Appearing on the new episode of the Let’s Talk STEM with Dr. Calvin Mackie podcast, George Mason University President Gregory Washington provides insight on the challenges faced by America’s system of higher education. He proclaims that colleges and universities must transform to educate a higher volume of students and prepare workers for careers in the new knowledge based, digital economy. Dr. Washington believes traditional higher education institutions aren’t currently structured to meet the nation’s future needs. “We're not structured to produce large numbers of graduates,” he says on the podcast. “We're structured to be highly selective and to produce outcomes from highly selective people. Most universities in the country admit less than 40% of the students that apply.”

He adds: "The best institutions in the future will be those institutions that are best positioned to educate everyone. And we have to educate everyone for the right opportunities. We have 12 million unfilled jobs in the country. We have 10 million people unemployed, and those 10 million unemployed don't qualify for the 12 million job openings we have. So how in the world do we have an unemployment problem and a labor shortage problem at the same time? I don't remember a time in our history when we've had that issue. So that tells you that there's a fundamental problem with how we're educating and training.”

At George Mason more than 70% of students graduate regardless of their race or ethnicity, including 73.7% of African Americans, compared to a national average of 44.7%, says Dr. Washington, who became president in July 2020. Hispanic, White, Asian, and Black students at George Mason all graduate at rates between 69.2% and 73.7%. “This institution has put the mechanisms in place to ensure that everyone who comes here graduates and graduates at about the same rate,” Dr. Washington says.

Dr. Mackie, who has known Dr. Washington since they were students at different institutions more than 30 years ago, applauded his friend for the high graduate rates. “George Mason is doing an amazing job,” Dr. Mackie says. “And I was blown away when you gave me those statistics because I really didn't believe they existed in a place called America.”

During the podcast, Dr. Washington, who like Dr. Mackie, has undergrad, graduate and doctorate degrees in engineering, discusses his humble upbringing, reveals that his mother was concerned because he kept taking apart his toys as a child, explains how he met Dr. Mackie and praises Dr. Mackie for advancing STEM education through STEM Global Action.

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