A lot of people have heard by now of what Peter Thiel has been up to. Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal. The billionaire is giving fellowships to 24 college-aged students, paying them $100,000 each to not attend college for 2 years, as media outlets are reporting it. Instead, they will spend that time developing business ideas in fields like biotechnology, education, and energy.
They’ll be working in Silicon Valley with over 100 mentors who will help them develop their ideas. Thiel has drawn students from prestigious institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Of course, Peter Thiel has been on the record for some time with his belief that college education is greatly overrated in this country. More and more people, some of them highly educated and successful themselves, are openly challenging the idea that a college education is always a great investment – no matter how much massive debt you incur in the process.
People are revisiting an old debate, actually: What is the utility of higher education? Are too many people going to college? What are people really hoping to gain by getting a college degree?
The Pew Research Center released a report entitled “Is College Worth It?” wherein they questioned 2, 142 adults about the value of higher education.
On the question of why kids should attend college:
- 47% said the main purpose of a college education is to teach work-related skills and knowledge.
- 39% said that it’s to help the student grow intellectually and personally.
College graduates put more emphasis on intellectual growth, while non-graduates emphasized career preparation.
Among those who graduated from 4-years schools,
- 74% said their education was very useful in their intellectual growth.
- 69% said it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person.
- 55% said it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.
College graduates believe they earn $20,000 more a year as a result of their education; non-graduates believe they earn $20,000 less a year. This is consistent with the median gap in annual earnings between a high school graduate and a college graduate – $19, 550 – as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010.
As for whether or not a college education is worth the money,
- 57% of respondents said college fails to provide good value for the money.
- 75% said it was too expensive.
- However, 86% of the college graduates said that college was a good investment personally.
While the nationwide unemployment rate hovers around 9%, for college graduates the rate is 4.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For high school graduates it’s 9.5%, and for those who never finished high school, it’s 14.7%.