You need a college degree to get ahead in this world, right? Well, for anyone who’s paid (or who is currently paying) full tuition fees at university or college, think again. The Thiel Foundation, founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, announced this week that it had already picked its next round of 20 fast-tracked college dropouts. You heard correctly – each year since 2011, the Thiel Foundation hand-picks 20 students who are currently enrolled in colleges or universities and pays them to drop-out of college in order to create the businesses of their dreams.
Competition for this program is fiercer than trying to get into the colleges in the US. In fact, there are 2,800 applicants for every 20 slots – and with good reason. These dropouts receive $100,000 each and equally important, all the mentoring they require, with one caveat – they have to forgo or drop out of college during the two years of the program.
What does Thiel know that millions of American parents don’t know? Thiel says he founded his foundation on the assumption that rather than encouraging students to try new things, college simply leaves them saddled with horrendous debt. Thiel's program actually gives them money and encourages them to be the next Steve Jobs (or Mark Zuckerberg, or well, the sky’s pretty much the limit here).
In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Thiel talked about how college essentially forces students to compete in a contest where the losers go bankrupt while winners turn into conformists, and says that this trend will continue until we, parents and college students, begin questioning whether college is really the only option.
When the program began, only 430 students applied in the first year, but now they number in the thousands, and they’re not just wunderkinds and geeks, according to program director Danielle Strachman. This year’s Fellows are tapping into a diverse range of ideas – from fighting fraud to genetic testing and health food – while past Fellows have made names for themselves by developing systems that could have immediate applications. Though not all Fellows have seen the same success, the overall results are positive.
The numbers speak for themselves; between them, the 80 current and former Thiel Fellows have already raised over $142 million in venture capital, and generated over $41 million in revenue (http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-peter-thiels-college-dropout-entrepreneurs-are-doing-2015-5). Meanwhile, only 8 of the students have gone back to college and several have already sold their companies. In response to the overwhelming number of applicants, the Thiel Foundation plans to expand its program to 30 Fellows a year at some point in the future to allow more students the opportunity to “drop out”.
These are college dropouts? I’m still looking for the negative aspects and wondering why I paid so much for college – and will probably pay around the same for my own kids.
So what do you think? Do you believe that college students might soon find themselves being replaced by super successful college dropouts?