The CEO that pays students to drop out of college

With the rapidly rising cost of education, many students are wondering how they can afford college. Other students, already in college, are perplexed with the thought of ever paying their massive student loans off. 

Due to this ever-increasing problem, CEO Peter Thiel decided to aim at America’s higher education dysfunction. 

Peter Thiel

Billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s name may sound familiar. His most notable venture was co-founding PayPal with Elon Musk in 1999.

However, he previously started Thiel Capital Management in 1996. After the two sold PayPal in 2002 for an eye-opening $1.5 billion, he later followed his own path of venture capitals. 

After PayPal, he started Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund, Palantir Technologies, and Founders Fund. In addition to these startups, he invested early into Facebook for $500,000 and sold his investment for over $1 billion eight years later. 

Peter Thiel despises wasteful government spending and the ever-increasing debt levels of both the government and higher education costs. Because of this, he created The Thiel Fellowship

The Thiel Fellowship

The Thiel Fellowship’s primary focus is to empower and encourage students aged 22 or younger to drop out of college and pursue their passions. If selected, students receive $100,000 over a two-year agreement as they pursue ventures such as becoming entrepreneurs, scientific research, or social movements. 

Each year, the Thiel Fellowship awards 20 to 25 students the money and resources to drop out of school and pursue other dreams. In 2020, 24 students were selected to be incorporated into the program.

On The Thiel Fellowship website, there are striking quotes meant to inspire and enrage others:

  1. “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.” -Margaret Mead
  2. “Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” -Plato
  3. “That major she majored in don’t make no money – But she won’t drop out – her parents’ll look at her funny.” -Kanye

Thiel Fellowship success stories

While there are many critics of his program, including Harvard President Larry Summers, there have been notable success stories:

Criticism of The Thiel Fellowship 

Every new idea is met with initial criticism and skepticism, and The Thiel Fellowship was no different. Shortly after Peter launched this new venture, former Harvard President Larry Summers stated, “I think the single most misdirected bit of philanthropy in this decade is Peter Thiel’s special program to bribe people to drop out of college.”

Peter has faced criticism from Wall Street Journal columnists and others based on students’ failures in his program. 

One of those dropout failures was Andrew Hsu, who was pursuing his Ph.D. at Stanford. He dropped out to be part of The Thiel Fellowship and launched the social-gaming startup Airy Labs. Unfortunately, the initial startup was a failure, and the company suddenly had to fire 20 employees to stay afloat.

Continuing controversy mixed with success

Peter Thiel’s Foundation and Fellowship will continue to face criticism mixed with success. However, we can all agree that the cost of higher education is getting dangerously close to being unattainable. 

The student loan crisis continues to grow as lawmakers and educators struggle to come to a real solution. While Peter Thiel’s Fellowship may not be the perfect fit for everyone, it certainly created controversy and a push for real change in our educational system.

Let’s hope real change is in the near future.