Posting in Education
Tech industry entrepreneur Peter Thiel wants to prove that many people are better off pursuing business opportunities than spending four or more years in a classroom, accruing massive debt.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are college dropouts -- they left to pursue dreams of building businesses. The rest is history. The question is, are these three individuals exceptional outliers, or did they pave a path more people could and should follow?
Last year, Peter Thiel, a tech industry entrepreneur, set out to prove that many people are better off pursuing business opportunities than spending four or more years in a classroom and accruing massive debt. As he recently told CBS' Morley Safer on CBS 60 Minutes: "You have to look at the cost side of the equation. It costs up to a quarter of a million dollars to go through four years of college today. Unfortunately, you have to think about the practical things and are you actually gonna get a job where you can pay off this incredible debt you take on?" (CBS is the owner of this site.)
Many colleges are unaccountable, bloated institutions where students are learning less than ever before, he says -- and a degree has little more than snob value. "There are all sorts of vocational careers that pay extremely well today so the average plumber makes as much as the average doctor."
Thiel even equates many of the for-profit schools and substandard colleges with subprime mortgage lenders, "where people are being conned into thinking that this credential is the one thing you need to do better in life. And they're actually not any better off after having gone to college; they typically are worse off because they've amassed all this debt."
And that debt keeps piling up. "We now have $1 trillion in student debt in the U.S.," Thiel says. "You can say it's paid for $1 trillion of lies about how good education is."
Thiel puts his money where his mouth is. Every year, his Thiel Fellowship program selects 20 students and pays them $100,000 to drop out of college and pursue new business ideas. "People should think hard about why they're going to college. If your life plan is to be a professor or to be a doctor or some other career where you need a specific credential, you should and probably have to go to college. If your plan is to do something very different you should think really hard about it."
Not everyone agrees with Thiel.accuses Thiel, a billionaire, of being "out of touch with the real world," adding that "he doesn't understand how important education is for the masses. You can take 24 children and make them successful by giving them on-the-job training. But that's not a lesson for the rest of America. What I worry about is a message that's getting out there to America that it's okay to drop out of school -- that you don't have to get college. Absolutely dead wrong."
Still, Thiel is sticking to his guns: "We have a society where successful people are encouraged to go to college. But it's a mistake to think that that's what makes people successful."
May 22, 2012
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I went to college. I didn't learn anything there that truly helped me in my current day-to-day life. On the whole, colleges once, key word, ONCE, were a place to gain skills and knowledge to let you go far in your work. Colleges and Universities gave you knowledge, and preparation. That is rarely the case any more. Just as High School was supposed to prepare you for college. As someone above stated, unless it's truly a high-skill job, like medical profession, you can easily do a trade school, or certifications to get what you NEED to know for a job in most fields Technically lawyers don't need to go to law school, just pass the Bar exam. However, as was stated above, the snobbishness and idiocy of HR all but requires that you have a full degree under your belt, which is just idiotic these days. Personally, I was a Theater Arts major. BECAUSE I wanted to go in to IT. Yes, read it over again and again. I did theater arts because I wanted to go in to IT. I've always been more of an introvert, but I like being around people. I did stage management, direction, choreography and other things to help improve my skills around people. Also, back when I went to college, the only IT degrees, unless you were perhaps at MIT, were PROGRAMMING for the first 1-3 years. I personally dislike doing programming. I went to college to become a more rounded person in knowledge, but honestly it was a waste. I finished college, and got certifications in Unix System Administration, A+ cert and later CCNA and CCNP, and now do networking. NONE of those were available from a 'College' back in my 'day' of my past.
When I graduated from college, degree in hand, it was into a recession. I was unemployed for 2 years with a massive debt. And I had an computer engineering degree! My older brother, also an engineer, had it worse. He had graduated just before the same recession with a Chemical engineering degree, just when the bottom fell out of that industry. What we're seeing with today's graduates is the same kind of experience, except generally worse. Instead of 2 years, many can expect to be unemployed for 5 years. So here's my advise for kids coming out of high school and trying to figure out where they want to go 1) The one set of courses you will need, if you didn't get such training in high school, will be how to run a small business (i.e. with 1 employee, yourself). So if you didn't get in high school, go to college and study this FIRST. Work has moved away from the days of big corporation hiring people for the rest of their lives to short-term contract work. Short-term contract work means you will be running a small contracting business with yourself as the only employee, so it'll be much easier if you know how to handle the accounting, marketing, etc. beforehand. 2) Learn the skills of an entrepreneur. This will be difficult because it has only been recently that entrepreneurs have been studied. "An entrepreneur is someone who looks for [business] opportunity without regard for currently controlled resources." In other words, find the opportunity, then figure out how to obtain the resources to fulfil it. 3) Take pride in your work, what ever it is. Your work is a reflection of you. Pride shows a commitment to quality. That is what clients/employers are looking for. 4) "Success" is not a big home, and a cottage, an expensive car, and expensive gadgets. Material success does not bring happiness and if you think about it, you'll quickly decide it's better to be "comfortably happy" than to be materially wealthy but miserable. Quality of life is more important than Quantity of things. Life is for living. Enjoy it while you can. Because you really can't take that stuff with you. 5) Pursue what you are passionate about and good at. (Some people are passionate about things they are not good at.) When you have passion, talent (being good at something), and pride, you will be able to become amongst the very best in the world. The boomers, because they graduated in a time of high demand, could get away with being mediocre. Today, if you are obviously not going to be amongst the very best in the world, you won't be good enough to successfully compete. [Note that I say "going to be amongst the very best". No one expects you to start as amongst the very best. But if they can see that you're going to eventually be amongst the very best, they are more likely to invest in you.] I have some additional words of advise: 6) There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a skilled trades person (as long as you'll recognizably become amongst the best in the world). 7) People may look down on garbage collectors, but just imagine what city life would be without them. There is no such thing as a job that benefits society that is not deserving of the highest respect. 8) Entrepreneurs never "fail". They have "learning experiences". (That's why you need a lot of grit.) [Disclaimer: I'm on my third start-up.] 9) You can always go back to college or University. 10) Learn to accept that "your best" may not be as good as you'd like, but that it also might not be as important as you think. This doesn't mean to not strive for being better, just simply to be realistic. The man who drew the Flintstones eventually realised that he'd never become the fine artist that he always wanted to be, but that his work made people laugh and that was more important.
I agree enthusiastically. A Liberal Arts degree is absolutely worthless. Only if you are going to learn something specific such as becoming a doctor, is college worth either the time or the effort. And I went on the G.I. bill, so I didn't even have to pay for it! In my case, having graduated in 1950 with a BA, I was unable to find a job of any sort. After a year or so I spotted an want-ad that said 'Learn IBM'... I answered it and got a job that evolved into programming IBM machines and I have been programming them ever since for both fun and profit. I have always said you'd be much further ahead by skipping college and assaulting the world on your own, so Peter's thoughts are a welcome justification.
One point of disagreement: Most jobs don't require you to become "one of the best in the world." And trying to achieve that level of skill/success/reputation may require a much higher time commitment than you're willing to give. Logically, not everyone can be "one of the best in the world." It's OK to be merely "good at what you do."
I was lucky on got into IT before a degree was needed for everything. The snobbishness of having a BA or BS has reached such heights that it is near impossible to get a resume past the HR screening unless one is listed. I've even spotted an ad for a car salesman that called for a degree. Really? When should experience ever take a back seat?
Having been a self-employed tradesperson most of my working life has taught me that as long as you aspire to be the best, you are guaranteed of being good. Being good guaranteed that I always had a job. Not always the most money, but always employed and always happily so doing what I liked. I would be today if my body was able to handle the physical side of the trade I chose. Nevertheless, I can now be a consultant any time I please, drawing on my wealth of worksite experience in problem solving and it is this last aspect that cannot be taught out of a book. It has to come either through learning while doing, or at the side of someone who has seen it all. Kids today who eschew a trade or being self-employed as a business-owning person are denying themselves a lifetime of fulfilment. Yes, fulfilment can be had through academia, but the level of frustration and discouragement through working for someone else is high. I hope many of those young folk see this article and the comments.
I got my first IT job because I was the only person who applied for the job that owned a home computer. An old Commodore Vic 20. Not one person on my staff has a degree, yet we have less system down time and better system performance metrics than our industry peers.