Thiel Foundation to college-bound grads: Don’t do it

Earlier this year the foundation gave a group of young fellows $100k and two years of mentoring in exchange for quitting college.

And they advise that maybe college isn’t the best of all choices as it could land you deep in debt with no real marketable skills either. I agree.

I have a B.A. in Psychology which helped me little in terms of jobs. Then I went back to a junior college and got an A.A. in computer programming. That’s what set my career path. But this was when college was inexpensive. That B.A. might put me $50,000 in debt today and probably would have made it impossible for me to afford to go to that junior college. And I might still be doing crappy manual labor jobs.


  1. Bob, do you feel like at 18 you would have been ready to make the choice about which vocational/technical/etc school you’d like to go to, and what “career path” you’d like to see yourself on? It just seems weird to make a choice like that at my age.

  2. Education should not be about a career, it should be about developing the individual. That’s the problem, (one of the problems) with education today, it is a factory for producing fodder for industry. By the time you get trained for a particular career the economic situation has change and you training is no use to you. Like Ross said, at the time of going through uni. or college are you experienced enough to know where you want to go in this world and why shouldn’t you be able to change track several times in your life? Education should be a life long experience.

  3. What a long, strange trip it’s been: from the Acid Tests and Protests of the sixties; through War, hell-raising, Harley riding and AIM marchs in the seventies; to life as a Helo-Logger on the High Cascade in a school bus with guns and dogs and kids and goats and a three year supply of dried-goods and ammunition through the Reagan/Bush eighties; with college and single parenting, and a start on a ‘professional’ career in the nineties; and in the oughts Computing and Information Systems Guru, College Instructor and Freelance Internet Savant… to today a Semi-Retired, Self-Employed Independent General Services Contractor.

    Which is of course the double-nickle (55) euphemism for unemployed and quite possibly unemployable, 401K down the toilet, six years to SS… That some teabagger wants to take away from me.

    College and university were a mid life career change for me, mid to late thirties, and though ostensibly “re-training” as a Displaced Timber Industry Worker (Logger) for me it was about, as john alludes, developing – learning. And as it coincided with my suddenly (seemingly) finding myself raising four children alone, with no welfare, child support, “companion”, girl-friend or house mouse, I incurred not quite the fifty thousand Bob infers but – take note – with the interest accrued over the twenty years hence I owe not quite double that, in spite of the payments I made before (reluctantly) retiring or the nominal payments I now make. While I was fortunate enough to pay for graduate school out-of-pocket, the ongoing deferments as an educator and graduate student are what bit me on the ass – the deferments only apply while you are employed.

    [Get to the point, Thom] – I still teach a few classes, and “advise” enrolled students as well as non (notable my sons, daughter and myriad nieces, nephews and assorted kissing cousins) and my advice is and has been over these past couple of years “In This Market do not go to school for “re-training”, as if you were some kind of monkey, go to school to learn as the better informed we all are the better off we all are.” I have been particularly hard on our two local colleges and three mainstream media outlets for encouraging folks top get through these hard times by borrowing money to go to school with an eye to the economy and employment outlook rosier when they get there and a good paying job on the other side.

    Well, we’re there. We’re on the other side of it. I have students eighteen to eighty graduating this week (and in May) with Associates of Arts degrees and other various technical certifications to find… there’s no jobs out there! Nothing has changed except their debt load. It’s a pretty insidious trap. College Debt is the (not necessarily) new <i.subprime, sliced, diced and gambled with.

  4. After several attempts at a degree in something “practical,” including engineering, hydrology, business, and computers, I finally gave up… until I got the courage to study what I loved. It took me 21 years to do it, but I finally graduated with a BA in Theology. (And I’m not even religious!) Job prospects: None. Value: Priceless.

    BTW, Ten Bears, that teabagger who wants to take away your SS is named Barack Obama.

  5. Well, I left school at 15 and started in the shipyards, no college, no degrees. I read ferociously on everything I could get my hands on. My father used to say, revere books, they are the poor man’s university. Politically I embraced anarchism when about 17, practically I can turn my hand to anything, never had a tradesman in the house, never put a car in a garage for repairs. maintained my own boat for ten years I owned it. Was an avid debater and often after a debate with some “intellectuals” I would be ask “What university did you go to”, In their minds, if I could debate I couldn’t be just an ordinary guy. What I accept is that in this type of society nothing is done for the welfare of the people, if the corporate world can’t make a buck from it, it will be dumped. Retraining to enter the labour market, really means be somebody else so that we can make money from you, even if at the end of it you are no use to us, we have made money retraining you. The system sinks, it is loaded against you, fiddling with it may get you a few more crumbs to eat of the floor, but the cake stays on the table and you’re not invited.

  6. I got booted from high school at age 17 for (one might say) my capitalist endeavors. When I was overseas, people used to ask me where I got my Masters. I would chuckle while trying to avoid telling them I was a high-school dropout. But that came later…

    After leaving school, I plugged into the corporate world for 12 years, first as a union member, then in administration. It became clear that the corporate world had no loyalty to me, even as it demanded my complete loyalty to it, so I left. Been self-employed for over 20 years now. It wasn’t an easy transition, but I made it with help from others who had gone before.

    I have no objection to hiring one of my peers to fix my car or build a building– or better yet, trading them for the cheese I make. But I won’t take my car to a corporate chain. My bank has six branches. Most of my produce comes from a farm down the road. I don’t object to trade among equals. But (God willing) I will never again punch a clock and do spirit-killing robot work.

  7. I have no objection to trading my skills with others, or in some way of paying somebody for their assistance to do what I need done. I have just been fortunate that I never needed any help for those sort of things, so just got on with it by myself. I did of course need help with other things which I was incapable of doing myself, for example heart surgery, cancer treatment and surgery, Getting to a holiday destination in the shortest possible way as I only had two weeks. No man is an island and by sharing our skills through co-operation makes our lives much richer. I am not an advocae of individualism to the extent of isolation. Mutual aid, co-operation and voluntary association seems a good road to walk.

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