PayPal Co-Founder Gives Out $100,000 'Scholarships' To Not Go To College

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. TC mark

reddit via NPR/ image – Sandusky Sweeper


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  • Perfect Circles

    Paypal's behavior during the height of the Julian Assange / WikiLeaks tribulation doesn't make me too fond of this Peter, who would also DENY an education to promising young people.

    • Ruby

      He's not denying them an education – he's offering them an alternative education. And they can always go back to college later.

      • smh

        Agreed – there is so much lost business/professional opportunity with college degrees today. While the social and autonomy lessons are important to the development of a young adult,  fostering a person with true business/entrepreneurial aspirations through a program like this good pay HUGE dividends to a young professional. The gamble is that a college student would take the grant and not do anything about it, but as the blog entry suggests, there are serious repercussions to someone at least showing a good effort in trying to get your idea off the ground.

        In this day and age, a college education isn't as highly regarded as it once was from an employer standpoint. Many employers would hire a candidate who has more relevant experience than someone who did their undergrad at well-known college w/o any experience whatsoever. This type of program enables young adults to gain real world experience right away, and something like that shouldn't be necessarily frowned upon.

    • Fuck You Perfect Circles

      omg you sound so fucking stupid

      • Perfect Circles

        Sorry I didn't go to college. paid me $50,000 to work for them instead.

  • ess

    but college is the best effing experience of your life. I just graduated and I wouldn't give up those 4 best years of my life for 100,000 bucks. Plus, graduating from a top tier school like harvard, mit (or georgetown, like me) gives you endless possibilities.

    • rhodeislander

      Odds are good you owe that $100k you mentioned (or more) in student loan debt for the “best effing experience of your life”, while employers (you know, the ones who would give you money to pay down that debt) are starting to pay less and less attention to college degrees, and more to professional certifications and work experience.

      • ess

        actually, my parents understood the value of an education and started saving the day I was born. As a result I have no college loans. I realize I am incredibly lucky they did this, but they created a path for success for me. I am in finance, so based on my starting salary of my first job…. I think they made the right call.

      • ess

        Oh and as to work experience, I've held an internship every summer and almost every semester while attending college.

  • Dan

    I approve of this, college is for the most part, entirely useless. The people who love college are the ones who spend every night getting wasted and doing stupid shit on campus. As for the actual educational parts, colleges are quite useless. Real-world experience is worth way more than a degree imo. For example, I've been doing graphic design for several years now, I'd be much more likely to get hired with a good portfolio as opposed to a person with a fancy degree and no portfolio.

    • Harry

      yeah unless you want to be a doctor or engineer or something like that, you can't just do it on your own like you did with graphic design

    • Monica

      I disagree. While it's unfortunate that college has become largely represented by Asher Roth's song, MTV Spring Break, and other such small filters, I can't say college is entirely useless.

      For people, such as yourself, who look towards the arts for means of work or whatnot, then yes, I would wonder why someone would pay a hefty amount of money towards a university instead of putting some time in a dance academy or refining their talents else where at a much cheaper price from people who are equally qualified. However, the fact is that while we can rail on colleges for being too expensive that it may not even be worth attending one, the American school system before college isn't that great either.

      High school academics have been failing for years now, and before we completely write off colleges, we need to improve them first. Many high schools will not prepare a teenager properly for entering most work forces. If anything, high school was useless since many teens that go to college will have to retake courses they supposedly should have learned before entering university. The general high school curriculum is boring, repetitive, and essentially uninspiring for most teens. Except for a minority of students that are able to take “honor” classes or attend more “progressive” schools, most simply go through grades 9-12 only doing well to get good grades and buff their college applications. Why is that the only motivation?

      Perhaps if students had more freedom with their education, starting at the age of 14 and 15, they could fully explore their interests and take classes they themselves like. That way, by the time they're seniors and possibly looking at colleges, they will have a better idea of what area they'll want to go study and specialize in, and perhaps decide if college is right for them at all. That way, they could save a couple thousand bucks and not have a life-crisis over their major come junior year.

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