New Trend? Entrepreneurs Taking a Pass at School

12 Sep

With students heading back to school in hopes of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, many people believe four-year programs are becoming a thing of the past.

This year Peter Thiele, co-founder of PayPal, launched the fellowship, “20 under 20” with the hopes of finding top entrepreneurs wanting to improve the world. The  handful of finalists received a $100,000 grant, and the opportunity to mentor with elite leaders of Silicon Valley. The only catch? They are not allowed to enroll in college.

As Thiele’s program was announced, controversy stirred in the educational system with many appalled by his initiative. Others were left wondering if education was becoming obsolete for entrepreneurs.

Yes, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are famous college dropouts, but can the case be made to skip the diploma?

In terms of entrepreneurism, a lot of what it takes to make it cannot be taught in a controlled setting at school. Mistakes need to be made, risks taken, and lessons learned. To fail in school is not an option but to fail in the real world may be a reality many find beneficial.

Also, many argue schools expense outweighs the advantages. The constant tuition hikes continue to occur even with the state of the economy and the unemployment rate at a staggering 9.1%. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reported a 440% increase in tuition over the last 25 years. You would think with the astronomical cost of tuition, graduates would be able to find jobs, pay off their debts, and live happily ever after. Reality is calling and that fairytale is just not happening.

This whole education bubble was the reason Thiele started the “20 under 20” fellowship. In an interview with Tech Crunch, Thiele stated,

“Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

Believing college graduates’ innovation was being hindered due to  the enormous debt incurred in school, many talented entrepreneurs were fearful of taking risks. Thiele wanted to stop the cycle, so he provided another outlet besides college for entrepreneurs. He hopes finalist John Burnham will continue his desire for space mining or Laure Demmy will produce anti-aging technology.

Even with the education bubble ready to burst, I still believe a degree is an invaluable source. More and more schools are vying for would-be entrepreneurs to attend their program and the numbers are growing. The Princeton Review now has a the top 25 entrepreneur programs for both undergraduate and graduate, which only recently created. The dynamic of programs is changing allowing for more real world experiences, mentors, and feedback.

Also, if people continue to believe it only takes hard work and passion to make it big, there will be a lot of people in a far bigger mess than student loans. Many entrepreneurs have the ambition but need the tools and foundation to build their dreams upon.

I am sure we have all heard it before but connections, connections, connections. In today’s world one of the best reasons for going to school are the people you meet. As sad as it may be, it is true. Not everyone will have the chance to meet Silicon Valley’s brightest tech stars, but they will have the opportunity to build a solid base.

Yes, if you are like Burnham or Demmy use your god given talent to make the world a better place without traditional schooling, and I will be honored to be a part of your generation. If you are like the other 99% entrepreneurs, a few classes never killed anyone.

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