A College Degree or $100K. Which Would You Choose?

Posted on October 25, 2011 by


Peter Thiel. Billionaire Investor. Co-Founder of PayPal

Billionaire investor, Peter Thiel, issued a press release May 25, 2011, announcing the introduction of the Thiel Fellows. What  made this event news-worthy? Well, it probably had something to do with the participants receiving $100, 000 to start their own businesses if they agree to drop out of college for at least two years. (http://www.thielfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26).

“The Fellows are a tremendous group of young people who are going to advance the frontiers of knowledge, shake up staid industries, and change the world,” said Thiel. “Tomorrow will not take care of itself. In order to solve vexing problems and increase the quality of life for people everywhere, the world’s economy needs continuous scientific and technical innovation from outstanding creative minds. I’m looking forward to helping the Fellows become the.”

When I first learned of Thiel’s initiative I was both intrigued and challenged by his remarks. I belong to that era that emphasized education and employment over entrepreneurship. The main focal point centered around getting or keeping a good job with benefits. Starting a business was viewed as a high risk proposition which offered no “job security or stability.” Nevertheless, developing the necessary skills for making money was more important than attempting to develop the skills needed for “creating” money. Yet, in  spite of the fact that starting your own business comes with no guarantees or job security, the rewards far outweighs the risk.

Thiel seems to recognize the need for a paradigm shift within our educational system. He understands how desperate times requires desperate measures. The industrial age has given way to the Information/Technological Age. As a result, teaching students how to be “employable” simply isn’t enough. Possessing a high school diploma or a college degree does not imply that an individual knows how to think, create, or innovate. In addition, the current unemployment rate can also suggest that neither a diploma or a degree can be viewed as an entry ticket to success and the American Dream. Children generally display an entrepreneurial and creative spirit early in life. Unfortunately, by the time they  reach high school that initial “path” is abandoned in favor of getting into a good college for the purpose of getting a “good job.” Either way it remains to be seen whether Thiel’s fellows will change the world. nonetheless, his efforts has sparked an interesting dialogue which may lead to lasting ripple effects resulting in curriculum changes and a new definition of success. Who knows? Perhaps the focus may switch from thinking  about building businesses rather than landing a secure job. Moreover, the fate of a nation may depend on our ability to make this change.

Posted in: After IUSB, Finances