Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

PayPal's Peter Thiel to once again pay students P5.6 million to drop out of college to start own company

By NICK GARCIA Published Feb 28, 2024 3:30 pm

For Peter Thiel—PayPal founder, vocal libertarian, and Donald Trump supporter—there’s no need to stay in school, kids.

In 2010, Thiel launched a program that pays students $100,000 (P5.6 million) to drop out of school to start their own company.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that his program will soon announce 20 new fellows, chosen from an applicant pool that is bigger than ever. They plan to launch companies exploring artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency.

Since 2011, when it chose 24 fellows, the program has sponsored 271 individuals.

Big successes include Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of blockchain network Ethereum; Laura Deming, founder of aging and life extension venture capital firm The Longevity Fund; Austin Russell, who runs autonomous car company Luminar Technologies; and Paul Gu, co-founder of lending company Upstart.

In launching the program, WSJ reported that one of Thiel’s aims was to undermine the popular view that college was necessary for all students, and that top universities should be accorded prestige and veneration.

He met intense criticism early on, being described as a hypocrite since he holds philosophy and law degrees from Stanford University.

Former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers called Thiel’s move the “single most misdirected bit of philanthropy in this decade.”

Vivek Wadhwa, a former Washington Post columnist and Harvard researcher, also said Thiel is "no expert on education" and that the message he is trying to convey "is wrong."

"What matters is gaining a basic education and completing what you started—not the ranking of the school you graduate from," she wrote on Tech Crunch.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg columnists Aaron Brown and Richard Dewey said that while Thiel has not proven college or post-secondary education "is a dismal failure," his approach has shown success in specific contexts.

"Thiel has not proven that college is bad for everyone, nor that post-secondary education in the US is a dismal failure. But he has demonstrated a competing idea that has been vastly more successful, if only for a few students and only for certain types of projects. At the very least, that should make anyone paying college tuition and anyone running a college think hard."

Public opinion has shifted toward his perspective since then, according to WSJ.

Elite universities in the United States are under fire for their handling of antisemitism on campus and for maintaining “double standards” on free speech.

Thiel also noted that over the last three to four years, the campus has been “even more woke, it’s even less meritocratic.”

“It’s just hard to fix from within,” he’s quoted as saying, while also noting that student debt remains a big concern.

Investors are also more inclined to sponsor startups of young people without college degrees, WSJ reported.

In any case, Thiel acknowledges the limitations of his program. He said it was never meant to last forever, and he even considered disbanding it in the past.

Over the years, some applicants pursued ambitious ideas that turned out to be unrealistic.

Some individuals are also better off applying as fellows rather than starting their businesses. Lone geniuses with brilliant ideas, according to Thiel, aren’t also usually the kind of people who can build organizations.