Let Me Burst Your Bubble Mr. Thiel

Later this month, Silicon Valley tech magnate Peter Thiel will announce the names of the 20 lucky college students he will pay $100,000 to drop out. 

Thiel believes that similar to Americans’ willingness to assume large sums of debt for housing, the ever-increasing debt being assumed by students will create a similar bubble, which too is not unsusceptible to being burst. The 20 students will not be given jobs, but encouraged to instead become tech entrepreneurs who will change the world, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg or Napster founder Shawn Fanning.

As an aspiring MBA quickly digging myself into good old-fashioned American debt in pursuit of a higher paying and more satisfying career, Thiel’s proposal sounds tempting. Not only do I (and many other people I know) have the drive, energy and skill set to implement a socially responsible and high-impact organization but I also have the strong desire to. 

As a veteran of a California State University (San Francisco State), I am also distrustful and skeptical about what my college degree is worth. Every year the price of my education got more and more expensive and upon graduating with my Journalism degree I entered the prestigious world of professional bartending. 

Why is a bachelor’s from a public university so expensive anyway? When I was writing as the Opinions Editor at the SFSU’s Golden Gate [X]Press, out of curiosity I regularly asked students, teachers and faculty alike, “What does the president of the University do?” I was answered with a jumble of responses that all boiled down to the same conclusion: no one really knew.

How do you justify $1 million in salary and home, car and insurance allowances for a position that no one knows the purpose of?

This again makes me skeptical that paying tuition (and therefore digging oneself into tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt) is nothing more than supporting an ever-metastasizing web of public-sector employees with ridiculous benefits packages and no real role in the facilitation of my higher education.

So, yes, in a way I agree with Thiel. Maybe instead of taking out $100,000 in loans to go to college and maybe get a job, why not take out $100,000 in loans and start my own business? 

Because there still is value in higher education. There is intrinsic value in surrounding yourself around other intellectuals, challenging what you already know and learning things you don’t. 

Zuckerberg was not handed $100,000 from an established tech magnate to create Facebook he conspired with friends, in college, to create it. 

Additionally, the problem with college isn’t the education itself, as Thiel’s “drop-out scholarship” would suggest. The problem is corporate and personal greed inserting itself in our educations. 

Imagine how dumb we would all be if we had to take out loans to go to high school, or elementary school? Would I have made it to college if my parents hadn’t sacrificed a bulk of their income to send me to private schools with small class sizes and attentive instructors?

The way we view education is the problem, it shouldn’t be a privilege in a first-world country, it should be a right which all citizens see the benefit in funding publicly. If you think we are high-tech now, imagine if even just 20% of us more were given a proper education?

While Thiel’s offer is definitely tempting, it sends the wrong message. There would be no college bubble if Wall Street wasn’t blowing it. His money would be better spent investing in early-childhood education or lobbying for our public schools.

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