geneWith the 20th Mid-Atlantic Growth conference fast approaching, Corporate Growth Capital Style will be sharing discussions with the show’s experts and panelists leading up to the event. Our first conversation is with Gene Riechers, Vice Chairman of EverFi, Inc.

Mr. Riechers will be part of the “Trends and Controversy in Education Technology” panel, which will discuss the state of the education industry and viewpoints on emerging technologies and business models. The panel will also include Dr. Ángel Cabrera, the President of George Mason University, and Fred Singer, the CEO of Echo360. The discussion will be moderated by Donn Davis, the Co-Founder and President of Revolution, LLC.

Here is what Mr. Riechers had to say:

CGCS: What is EverFi’s mission? What are your responsibilities with the company?

Mr. Riechers: EverFi engages corporations and universities in providing critical life-skills education for America’s youth.  These groups sponsor our online courses to teach skills that students need, but aren’t always taught, such as financial literacy, digital literacy, career education, substance abuse education, and the like.  EverFi has taught over 5 million students since its inception.

CGCS: What are some of the changes that are occurring in education today? How is this creating opportunities for private companies?

Mr. Riechers: There are several changes going on in education.   For example, corporations are realizing that they can and should participate in today’s education system to ensure the health and skills of their future employees and customer.  Also, online education is a real, practical way to deliver quality education for a variety of audiences.  Students learn differently and are in different places (geographically, educationally, etc.).  Online education can make a difference in their lives and can supplement (and sometimes replace) traditional education approaches.  We’re still in the early innings of online education.  Not everything has been perfect, but many have benefited from it.

Companies are becoming more involved in education by providing services to existing educational systems and as an alternative to them.  This is happening in everything from for-profit schools to online enhancements to the delivery of traditional education.  There are hundreds of companies offering quality products and services today.

CGCS: What are, in your opinion, some of the biggest challenges facing education today, and how is technology helping to overcome them?

Mr. Riechers: We are leaving large groups of our youth behind.  They are in under-performing schools with few good answers in sight.  If any other government process had a 50% success rate (imagine the FDA being 50% right when approving drugs…), we would go crazy.  But we tolerate a 50% high school graduation rate in many cities.   There are a lot of causes to this – social, economic, educational, etc.  Can various forms of technology and online education solve this problem of youth being left behind?  It’s part of the answer because it can engage them in experiences and knowledge that might not be available in their school.  We need to find all of the answers of course.

CGCS: At the upcoming Strategic Growth Conference, you’ll be part of a panel of experts discussing trends and controversy in education technology. Why is this topic so essential today? What about this topic makes it controversial? And what can attendees expect to learn from this panel discussion?

Mr. Riechers: Educational technology can be controversial.  We all know of stories where it has apparently failed.  Students have accumulated debt, but not a useful degree. I would argue that is not a function of the manner of teaching, but rather a failure of the particular offering or company.  An efficient market with clear information can be the best disinfectant for the problem of poor quality.

Also, today’s K12 system isn’t working for a lot of students and today’s Higher Ed system is unaffordable or irrelevant for many.  Lots of people don’t like change. But, we can all do better, and corporations can play a big part in that.

To learn more about the 20th Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference and to register, click HERE.