Of the many public figures who routinely sound off about the problems facing higher education in America, Bill Gates is one who is actually worth paying attention to. As he explained yesterday at the Washington Ideas Forum, shrinking state budgets have indeed made college less affordable and lead to ballooning student debt. But throughout most of our higher education system, the biggest problem isn't necessarily cost; it's our shockingly low graduation rates. If we want to produce an educated, 21st century workforce, we need to focus on making sure more students who are currently dropping out of school instead make it to commencement.
For a brief tour of these issues (and some useful states for framing them), check out this PowerPoint presentation, which he delivered before his Q&A session with the New York Times' David Leonhardt.