What Do You Think About Higher Education?

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and venture capitalist, has some strong opinions about higher education.

Thiel was recently interviewed by Sarah Lacy, a reporter for Tech Crunch. Thiel argued that America is in the middle of a bubble regarding higher education. What is a bubble, you ask? Thiel explains that a bubble is “when something is overvalued and intensely believed. Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus,” said Thiel.

Many students, like myself, can relate to the arguments Thiel puts forth. “You have to get rid of the future you wanted to pay off all the debt from the fancy school that was supposed to give you that future,” he said. If education is so mandatory nowadays, why does it cost so much to achieve? If graduating from college is really the “American Dream,” why not make it affordable so everyone can obtain it?

Surprisingly, Thiel grew up in an upper-middle-class household and attended Stanford University and Stanford Law School, so he knows a thing or two about elite higher education universities. However, he argues that “if Harvard were really the best education, why not franchise it so more people can attend? Why not create 100 Harvard affiliates?” He says, “it’s something about the scarcity and the status. In education your value depends on other people failing. Whenever Darwinism is invoked it’s usually a justification for doing something mean. It’s a way to ignore that people are falling through the cracks, because you pretend that if they could just go to Harvard, they’d be fine. Maybe that’s not true.”

Thiel believes that the concept of higher education, and America’s reliance upon it is all a big joke. He argues that higher education, much like the idea of Santa Claus, is all a big lie (sorry, kids). In an effort to stress his point that higher education is not necessary to be successful, Thiel had an idea.

He launched the “20 Under 20” Program last September with a fairly simple idea. The goal was to find the best 20 kids under 20 years old and pay them $100,000 over the course of 2 years to quit school and start his/her own company instead. Thiel received over 400 applications. The top 45 finalists met Thiel in San Francisco last month, and the winners will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

College Diploma

While the contest has received mixed reviews, Thiel is excited for America’s youth to see that there are other options out there. The brilliant young minds today don’t necessarily need a college degree to go far in life. As the old adage says, “it’s all about who you know.” With acquaintances like the venture capitalist Thiel, the 20 chosen kids are likely to be successful no matter the outcome!

So, what are your thoughts on higher education? Do you think a college degree is mandatory for success nowadays? Leave a comment and share your opinion!



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(source: Tech Crunch 4/10/11)

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