Peter Thiel Will Pay You To Drop Out Of College

What is the Big Idea?


While Congress dukes it out over the federal interest rates on student loans, venture capitalist Peter Thiel has a solution for college students who don't want to be saddled with huge amounts of debts in an unstable economy. The solution, he says, is to drop out of college.

"We have a bubble in education, like we had a bubble in housing...everybody believed you had to have a house, they'd pay whatever it took," Thiel tells Morley Safer in an interview that will appear on 60 Minutes this evening. "Today, everybody believes that we need to go to college, and people will pay-- whatever it takes." And that's way too much these days says Thiel, when people without a degree can make as much as those with an advanced one. "There are all sorts of vocational careers that pay extremely well today, so the average plumber makes as much as the average doctor," Thiel tells Safer. 

Listen to Peter Thiel weigh in on the burden of a college education:

What is the Significance?

Only half of recent college grads are employed full-time and tuition has quadrupled over the past 30 years. Thiel says the system is broken.

"I did not realize how...screwed up the education system is. We now have $1 trillion in student debt in the U.S... cynically, you can say it's paid for $1 trillion of lies about how good education is," Thiel says in the 60 Minutes interview.

The Thiel Foundation's "The 20 Under 20 Fellowship" pays $100,000 each to about 20 students every year. One of the contest rules requires that the applicant "stop active enrollment in school during the Fellowship."

Thiel thinks his program offers an alternative to an expensive and ineffective university system, while critics think it encourages student to drop of college or not attend at all.

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Big Think will be tackling with this topic in a nine-week online course called Big Think's Summer School for the Real World, which will bring you advice from the world's leading experts, helping you to develop the skills you possess and build the ones you’ll need to thrive in the 21st century workplace. You'll get a crash course on the essential knowledge they never provided in lecture hall and the critical skills not found on any syllabus, featuring, among others:

  • PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel on how to think beyond professional tracks to set yourself apart from the crowd
  • Ken Segall, designer of Apple’s “Think Different” campaign on crafting the perfect pitch to get your foot in the door
  • The New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell on the secret of his professional success
  • Warren Littlefield, the man behind NBC’s FriendsER, and Seinfeld on achieving your goals
  • Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires, on the power of networking and persuasion to help you defy even the grimmest prospects 
  • Anthony Scaramucci, author of The Little Book of Hedge Funds, on the essentials of success in the world of finance
  • You can access the course for free by telling us about your higher education experience. The deadline to complete our quick online survey is June 1, 2012 at midnight. One graduate will be flown to New York City for a business lunch and job interview in Big Think’s New York headquarters. 

    Image courtesy of zimmytws/Shutterstock.com

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    17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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    Image from the study.

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    Image by authors of the study.

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