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More "Is College Worth It?" Debate

The recent economic downturn has generated some prickly fallout, especially in the world of college admissions planning. One of the more interesting (and confusing) areas of debate comes from the "Is college really worth it?" crowd. Of course, we can easily find examples of men and women who have not graduated from college and who have made a considerable mark on the world, both financially and achievement-wise. One of the most notable examples of that is Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. If you're looking for specific examples and want what could be the world's most exhaustive list of people who have made it "big" without that college diploma, look no further than The College Dropouts Hall of Fame. The list there is mind-boggling.

For example: James Cameron, Oscar-winning director, producer, and screenwriter. Dropped out of California State University, Fullerton. Then took up street racing while working as a truck driver and a high school janitor, eventually getting a job building models for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. Another example: J.D. Salinger, novelist, Catcher in the Rye (with over 60 million copies sold so far). Briefly attended Ursinus College and New York University before publishing short stories in Collier's and Esquire. And the list goes on . . .

In researching this topic, I found a recent article that raises some excellent points about the college ROI (return on investment) for certain creative types, in light of the skyrocketing college costs of today. Donna Fenn writes in BNet, "Last week, Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, announced that his foundation had just chosen its first class of “20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows." It's a group of wiz kids that will receive $100,000 each over two years to pursue their entrepreneurial ventures, all of which are in the science and technology fields. Sadly, only two of the awardees are young women, but that's another subject for another post. What has the media buzzing is Thiel's requirement that his fellows either forgo or drop out of college." There's more:

In a spirited Facebook debate, two of Fenn's friends made some interesting comments, including these:

"What we don't need in this country is more uneducated entrepreneurs with no sense of history, culture or values other than making money. I'm sorry, but business is about living. Life is not about business. Without education and a larger context than making money, how are we to make rational decisions that benefit society and the planet for generations to come rather than just what will benefit our shareholders for the next quarter?"

And this:

"Do many kids go to college to party and waste their precious opportunity? No doubt. Then shame on us as parents for failing to imbue our children with a love of learning, reading, and intellectual curiosity about who we are and where we are going as a species. Without that self-awareness, what's left is make money, buy stuff, throw stuff away, make more money, buy more stuff…"

For the rest of this highly interesting discussion see Fenn's article.

What do you think?


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.