Academia / Education
Trendsetters - May 2007
Interests: Skiing, golfing.
Sports fan: The family has been a Miami Dolphins season-ticket holder since the inaugural year.
Degrees: Doctorate, 1998, higher education administration, Union Institute and University Graduate School, Cincinnati; bachelor's, 1975, history, cum laude, Tulane.
Quote: "Our students are grown up. They know what they want to be. They come in and enroll for it."
Appointment: By U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.
Biotech: Keiser recently approved a bachelor's in biotechnology for his campus in Port St. Lucie -- home of the relocating Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies -- though he hopes "we're not too early."
In 1977, Arthur Keiser was in Gainesville studying for a doctorate in history, envisioning himself a professor with elbow patches on a tweed coat, a pipe and lots of coeds around.
But job prospects weren't bright, and so he threw in
with his mother, Evelyn Keiser, to found a for-profit career college in Fort Lauderdale. Today, Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, awards bachelor's degrees in eight fields, associate's degrees in 30 and an MBA. It boasts 14 campuses from Tallahassee to Miami, 10,000 students, 1,700 employees -- none with tenure -- and $200 million in revenue.
Keiser got there by focusing on his customer: Career-driven, working adults looking to move out of a dead end -- no 18-year-old freshmen searching for a keg party and the meaning of life. In 1998, as many as 65% of Keiser students were in computer science. Today, just 12% are. Florida needs teachers? In September, 24 students joined Keiser's first four-year education degree program in Sarasota.
As a for-profit, he gets little respect from his non-profit competition. The recent
Pappas report, a study for the Florida Board of Governors on meeting Florida's education needs, argued that the state needed more institutions focused on offering just bachelor's rather than on graduate schools and research ambitions. It ignored the for-profit sector, he notes.
Keiser, 53, recently put a toe in out-of-state waters, acquiring small South Carolina schools. Within Florida, he expects in five years to have 15,000 to 17,000 students, $300 million in revenue, a larger graduate school, a professional school and to become a predominantly four-year degree institution while offering doctorates, so that Keiser can grow its own faculty. Says Keiser, "I still love what I do."
"The week in January was incredibly successful," says University of Miami provost Thomas LeBlanc. He came from the University of Rochester in 2005 with a goal of increasing international exposure for students. Engineering majors, because of their regimented curriculum, get less chance to study abroad than most. So LeBlanc, 51, with a Rochester colleague, UM's engineering dean Kevin Parker and others, created "Engineering for the Americas" in which 40 students from UM, Rochester, Canada and Latin America spent a week together learning about technology, leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. Next month, they meet in Rochester, N.Y. Future classes will meet in Miami and abroad. "It's all about creating an international experience for our students."