Entrepreneur, investor, and future seasteader, Peter Thiel, is controversially offering kids $100,000 to drop out of college. The program is a tad misleading. The recipients are ridiculously ambitious wonderkids who would succeed without his $100,000 and would probably start businesses anyway (a lot of them already have at least once). He is helping them by putting them in a well-connected incubator and nurturing them. He also sets up a nice talent pipeline for his investments. For them, the trade-off with the classroom is likely worth it.
These kids are so elite, I don’t think the program itself is actually much of a commentary on the value of higher education. Community college couldn’t keep these whippersnappers down (no offense to community college, which I am quite in favor of). However, Theil has used the program to generate media attention on higher education as overpriced and not good at fostering young talent.
Theil is has angered people by encouraging kids to drop out of college. It turns out they don’t need much help. Fewer than sixty percent of freshmen end up graduating from four year colleges after six years. It’s boring, irrelevent, and expensive.
I think far more kids shouldn’t even go to college right after high school if they either don’t have a major they are passionate about or know what kind of job they want after. It is becoming much more common to question the value of the college given its price tag and meager results on professional advancement.
The old assumption that if you got any old four-year degree you’d manage to have a decent middle-class existence is no longer true and hasn’t been true for a while. Yet parents still push their kids into these expensive institutions and pile up the debt on themselves or their offspring without any decent endgame in mind for the investment.
Much of the current higher education debate is focusing on what to do with the existing college debt since it reached a trillion dollars. This is a big problem that needs a solution, but the long-term solution for changing any industry is to opt out, and many more teenagers are and should be doing that.
I hope I see a total breakdown and restructuring of the higher education system before I have college-aged kids myself. There’s no way I would send my children to the bloated, grade-inflating, time-wasting, traditional institutions we have now.
Okay maybe I do hate it as much as Thiel does.
Joanna Robinson is the Owner of Lunar Massage, a growing chain of massage studios in Washington D.C. She is a former Membership Director and now Board Member of AFF.
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