May 25, 2012

Ah, college. That wonderful place where millions of kids flock annually — and then head home 15 pounds heavier, under-slept, and vaguely hungover.

But, standard practice implies, better for it. Smarter. More qualified. The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicts that about 1.7 million students will graduate college this spring.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel disagrees. He’s spoken at length about changing the dynamic of learning professional skills — basically, he thinks college debt hurts more than college education can possibly help. He paid four college students $100,000 to drop out of school and start businesses.

It’s an interesting argument, one either backed up or squashed by the fact that he has a Bachelor’s and J.D. from Stanford. In the last two and a half decades, college costs have increased 3x faster than the average household income. College enrollments are at an all-time high – and it’s not just a gradual uptick.

Would your organization do it?

But there’s at least one huge barrier. Would your company really hire someone who doesn’t have a college degree?

How about if they did it consistently, and in sufficient numbers to make college truly optional? Now, Peter Thiel isn’t investing $100,000 in kids because he wants them to be employees. He’s trying to build an alternative to college for young entrepreneurs. Heck, it worked for Mark Zuckerberg.

But realistically speaking, it’s going to be hard to replace college applications with investor pitches. So what happens to everyone who invests their effort into joining companies? Will they find success?

I’m not so sure. My college experience was marked by bloated credit requirements and unimaginably irrelevant topics.

Yeah, I learned more about business from my internships than from class. And I am in lots of debt because of it. Check, check, check.

But I don’t see college becoming optional anytime soon. What do you think? Is the purportedly safe path worth the roughly $24,000 in debt the average college student leaves with — or is it BS?

Will the cost of college start to drive people away from attending — and will employers welcome them to the same white-collar jobs?

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.

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