The next bubble?

Dateline: Tue 19 Apr 2011

Higher education, says Peter Thiel, who founded Pay-Pal and in general made gobs of money.

We've had the tech bubble and the housing bubble. Now, Thiel argues, higher education is way over-valued and over-paid for; we are selling high school graduates a bill of goods when we allow them to assume huge student loan debt and get what often turns out to be a worthless (or worse, meaningless) degree.


This is good food for thought. As Tech Crunch says at the onset, "This article will piss off a lot of you."

As Americans, we were always led to believe, and in fact taught, that "education is the silver bullet." Well, yes and no. Learning certainly is, but education, pure and simple, may or may not pay off.

Anyhow, that's Thiel's point of view. I think he's onto something.



Matt Stone [unverified] said:

While education may or may not prepare you for the actual work force, that does very little to change what employers look for. I wouldn't be surprised if Thiel's own company has job requirements that say "college degree required"

2011-04-19 09:27:46

varangianguard [unverified] said:

Like most everything else, it depends.

In my own opinion, diplomas are just a rite of intitiation into the "clubhouse of the graduated". I had to do it, and now, so do you.

Whether one has actually learned anything of import, or can retain knowledge for any length of time is irrelevant.

Plus, the farther down the path one goes, the more one gets pigeon-holed by micro-specialization. Then, one is either "over-qualified" or is considered to have insufficient knowledge for certain positions.

Finally, my favorite is the liberal arts college mantra that "employers love liberal arts majors". Perhaps, but being an "associate" at a department store or at the local coffee shop is likely not what those former students had expected exactly.

2011-04-19 11:01:39

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Good point about the liberal arts college mantra.

It's also relevant to other kinds of colleges and universities.

Many of the universities want to grow in student population, build impressive facilities and have their Ph.D. professors spend most of their time writing research papers for publication.

I forgot. They also want to have powerful sports programs so the alumni will contribute more generously to the building of those impressive facilities.

So many kids from middle-class or lower-middle class homes (whose parents are limited in how much they can help financially) leave colleges with massive debt and
unimpressive job opportunities.

A financially challenged relative of mine who has a son who is a senior in high school recently told me that he had to tell his child: "Son, I just don't have any money to give you for college. I'm so sorry."

However, I don't know that the best option for that young man is to go out and start a company (as the article implies).

I believe post-high school education in this country should be free and available to all who qualify academically. And, I believe it is immoral and unethical for any eliteist college or university to require a quarter of a million (or more) "investment" from any student.

2011-04-19 13:35:57

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I wish you'd have told me before the last one chose DePauw. At $45K a year.

One thing college does: thins the herd. Another thing: teaches lifelong learning patterns. Another thing: fine=tunes the maturing process.

Mostly, a bachelor's degree helps many of us refine our goals. Among learned folks. It's an experience few of us duplicate as we move through life.

It may be worth less but it's still worth a lot.

And not nearly enough kids are doing it--to completion.

2011-04-19 13:47:08

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

College has become a 5-year con. My kids went to IU and Purdue. (They got much better educations at Purdue.) But even these "mere" state schools cost more than $20K a year. (My wife and I are impoverished because we told our children that we would provide a full 4-year ride; anything beyond that and they were on their own.)

One of the college scams is to change academic requirements or make certain that required classes are always full.

And I am nauseus at the salaries paid to coaches.

And I am still pissed that academic headliners don't actually teach; they enjoy tenure, prestige, research time and good salaries, as long as they publish (and don't perish). Their cost is borne by the students, though the headliners bring nothing to the undergraduate picture.

A longtime friend of mine with several PhDs, who was a department head in a small private college, and has taught all over the world,asserts that the college business is totally corrupt and degrees are worthless, thanks to parental pressures, departmental politics and overall, the dumbing down of education.

The enormous college debt that kids graduate with assures that many of them will be obliged to take any menial job in sight when the loans become due.

I agree with Whitebeard: qualified high school graduates should receive free college educations. It is in America's best interests, though perhaps not in the best interests of the entrenched college business.

2011-04-20 08:10:10

hendy [Member] said:

Time and again, the value of free education is proven to be level with the price paid. That said, my roster looks like this:

SS1: Purdue, somebody else paid for his 5yr degree; he's a front desk clerk and was otherwise unmotivated
D1: PhD candidate at RIT
S1: After a yr and a half at Ivy Tech, he's a chef
SS2: BSCS from IU; has a helluva great job in IT
SS3: Free ride through Purdue; Physics student of the Year; will get his PhD quickly, and probably more
SD1: Still at IU; AP'd through the first two yrs. Dean's List
SD4: Ambling through Bible College.

Overall, it's tough to get a McJob without a McDegree. It's largely in the student-- if they're motivated and not dealing with personal issues, they're good to go. You can't replace motivation. Can the post secondary educational system be improved? Yeah. Needs a shake-up, badly.

2011-04-22 15:33:41

daigoumee [unverified] said:

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2011-04-25 15:38:16

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