Co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel will soon be giving out $100,000 fellowships to 24 recent recipients of his Thiel Fellowship. The catch? They drop of out school and work for two years with over 100 Silicon Valley veterans as mentors to “further develop their ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education, and energy,” according to the The Chronicle of Higher Education. Recipients will drop out of schools such as Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford. More from the Chronicle:
The fellowship seeks to help winners develop their ideas more quickly than they would at a traditional university. Its broader aim goes beyond helping the 24 winners, by raising big questions about the state of higher education.
Mr. Thiel ignited controversy when he told TechCrunch in April that he sees higher education as the next bubble, comparable to previously overvalued markets in technology and housing.
Both cost and demand for a college education have grown significantly in the years since Mr. Thiel was a student. He sees that rise as irrational.
Students today are taking on more debt, and recently tightened bankruptcy laws make it more difficult to shake that debt, he argues, and those factors make higher education a risky investment. “If you get this wrong, it’s actually a mistake that’s hard to undo for the rest of your life,” he said.
With his Thiel Fellowship, the co-founder of PayPal has definitely ruffled some feathers in the academic world, some crying hypocrisy – Thiel graduated with a law degree from Stanford, benefitting from the business connections he made during his time as a student. Thiel further admitted that he probably wouldn’t have taken the fellowship if it had been offered to him at that time. But of course, the economy and its outlook were much different back in the 80s, when Thiel was pursuing his degree.
A couple weeks ago, we wrote up a study ran by Time that showed 85% of college graduates move back in with their parents shortly after graduation, giving us a hint about the outlook many students face as they enter the job market. The existence of the Thiel Fellowship, unfortunately, just marks another point along the what’ll probably be a process of widespread disillusionment and mistrust with higher education in America – Thiel’s bubble bursting – over the next few decades.