A college degree is not worth the cost? That’s what PayPal co-founder and Stanford-educated Peter Thiel recently claimed on “60 Minutes,” noting that a diploma is not needed for financial success (his evidence: a plumber can make as much as a doctor) and merely loads students down with debt. Thiel is offering $100,000 fellowships to select college students with promising entrepreneurial concepts. The catch: they need to drop out of college to get the money.
In my opinion, Thiel’s encouragement of dropping out is, to be frank, just plain stupid. As a follow up to my recent post with job advice for new college grads, here are five reasons why current college students should stay in school.
The Slim Odds of Entrepreneurial Success: Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the chances of college dropouts becoming successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates are pretty rare. As Shamus Khan, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, is quoted as saying in the Huffington Post, for every tech entrepreneur who quit college and made millions of dollars, there are tens of millions of unsuccessful entrepreneurs.
A College Degree is a Must for Many Jobs: Peruse job listings sites and you’ll see “bachelor’s degree required” (or similar language) among the required qualifications for many positions. In fact, according to the Business Insider blog, even a job listing for Thiel’s hedge fund reportedly requires a college degree, or at least a high GPA from “’a top-tier university” and “2-3 years post-college experience.” As one New York Times article points out, if you apply for such positions and you lack a degree, your resume will likely end up “in the ‘no’ pile” from the get go.
Reasonable College Loan Amounts Can Be Repaid: To be sure, college is extremely expensive, and it’s getting more costly by the year. The high price tag may not be an issue if you have more than enough money to cover it, but for those students relying on loans, Thiel’s argument likely makes a lot of sense. Still, according to one source cited in a Bankrate.com article entitled “Is college worth the cost?” students who borrow just the roughly $31,000 they are entitled through Stafford loans should “be in a good position to pay their loans back after graduation.”
College Graduates May Very Well Earn More: While research on this topic is mixed, one study found that people with a bachelor’s degree earn 84% more over their lives than high school graduates. This isn’t surprising considering that the May unemployment rate for those age 25 and over with a college degree was 3.9%, much lower than the 8.1% unemployment rate for those with just a high school degree and the 7.9% rate for those with some college. In addition, the unemployment rate for college grads is the only rate among those I just cited that declined from April to May.
Most Graduates Say School is Worth It: Perhaps this is the most compelling reason of all to stay in school — according to a Pew Research Center survey, 86% of college graduates say their college education has been a good personal investment. Why is it worth it? Besides the book smarts and critical thinking skills you gain from college-level classes, college generally provides other important life lessons like how to live (mostly) on one’s own. And of course, college is just plain fun.
What reasons did I miss for why it’s important to stay in school?