Not everyone has to be coaxed into entrepreneurship, it's an evil of our consumerist age. Your kid would probably rather participate in society at large than in your suicidal runway idea of a romanticized youth of modern times. "Starting something" with no experience at all is almost guaranteed to mean burned cash, family resentment and a bunch of hard lessons. Why not send them to military school and spare cash and suffering?
That is exactly what college is, and is supposed to be.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that college is a jobs training program, or a career readiness program - it's not. It was never intended to be. College is supposed to give someone a broader perspective, a more complex worldview, exposure to a vast array of topics and ideas, and to develop habits that are generally beneficial to any life or intellectual pursuit. That's it.
Entrepreneurship is great, and it will teach you many different things and some hard lessons as well, but it's not going to even remotely offer the same sort of experience or exposure. It's not college, you're not reading classical literature as part of a startup grind.
Also, society needs to accept that for some people, neither college, nor "starting something", is well suited or an appropriate expectation. Some people just aren't cut out for either, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people would be better off learning a trade, or going through an apprenticeship, or being self taught, or any number of other means of learning and developing skills.
Actually, you scratched the surface, but it goes so much further than that -- that sadly most of our modern universities have lost sight of. I've posted this in previous comments, but universities are actually suppose to help build more just societies -- an idea Plato describes as the purpose of university, and echoed by many chancellors across the country.
"The goal of university education is to help build a fairer, more just society" - Steven Schwartz. 
"Plato regards education as a means to achieve justice, both individual justice and social justice." 
Yes, it is a luxury to have the time to take a step back and consider your own society from a wider lens than "how can I beter secure my financial future this week." But without experiences like College, gap years, travel, and other "frivolities," you'll most likely end up as yet another short-sighted member of upper class who's spent a majority of their lifetime's creative power accumulating and hoarding wealth. Many don't have the bandwidth for both personal security and a strong social conscience, and I don't blame them for it...but I sure wish there were more with that ability.
Money is a very powerful tool and 18 is usually not old enough to be done with the formative experiences that will determine what you do with that power.
Those seem very deep emotional experiences, very different from the experience of being in college(mostly intellectual, or the college socialization process - i.e. the frat etc).
In short, it was designed as a luxury for rich kids who didn't need to contribute to society or provide for themselves. That militates towards setting up a "start something" fund (and maybe that "something" is setting up a Subway franchise or a construction company!) for your kid rather than a college fund.
Are the rich kids moving on to some better way to get their start in life? It doesn't seem like they are, to me. So college seems like it is still a valuable model, and making access to it more fair still seems like a worthy goal.
The numerous jobs that require a college degree as a prerequisite suggest that it's the de facto job credential program for a large chunk of the economy. The fact of the matter is, if you want to get into a lot of (though not all) high paying jobs, college is a necessity, and that's likely the reason almost all college students are going to college (how many students are taking classes after they graduate?).
We can talk about what college theoretically could be, but it's important not to ignore what college currently is.
Most people who went to college are not now working in an industry where a degree is literally required by law.
Note: I'm a doctor.
That's pretty weird, Doc.
I'm aware that a lot of that expense is in stuff like organic chemistry, which we probably don't want to cut back on. But the gen-ed stuff matters too, especially because it matters where you go for undergrad and how well you do in those gen-ed classes in order to get into a selective med school, which is how you get a selective residency.
I don't think those gen-ed requirements are really paying for themselves in how health care is delivered.
I kinda feel like you're pulling an XY problem here.
(Grats on your oldest, though. Condolences on the bill.)
You see this in tech too, of course. Knowing the "what to do" and knowing the "why you do it" are different things. I don't think enabling the latter is helped by rushing straight into technical education, either.
Edit: removed a second paragraph that I thought was dumb in retrospect.
In Europe, as I understand it, people generally study law right out of secondary school.
They were perfectly happy to take my money and let me believe that I was learning professional skills.
CS itself was always presented to me as the science that acts as a basis for the more practical engineering side of things. It was supposed to be the theory underlying the practice. That's what I paid for, and that's what I think I got (with the remainder of my experience being what I made of it). So, college could've been useless crap. For me, it wasn't.
I thought I was paying for an education. I was actually paying to hang out in the vicinity of an education, while being distracted with useless busywork.
People pay for college so that they can get a job that is not menial and low paid. Not everyone will inherit company from parents nor has buddies to call to when they want high paid job. Most of us need the job to pay bills and we need to be qualified to get that job.
To me, college has been the opposite. Most people I know feel restricted to getting a 9-to-5 job and are very stressed about how much they will make compared to their peers.
Nearly all of the depressed people I know feel very restricted. They feel as though they cannot get out of their situation in life. I think this is only bolstered by the enormous debt and time investment that comes with going to college---one or two small decisions (perhaps going into economics rather than stats, or going into chemical engineering rather than computer science) can lead to major regrets a few years down the line. These people feel trapped and full of regret. They don't know what to do.
Stepping aside and exploring opportunities that don't funnel you through a massive rat-race can be the biggest relief.
> If after high school my kids are eager to enter a college and start a path of learning and/or self-discovery, I’ll cover four years of tuition. However, if they have an idea for a company that they are passionate about and want to start working on that, I’ll be the first investor in their “seed round.” College will always be there (until it goes away entirely, ha) so he/she can always do that if the company doesn’t work out. I’m calling it their Start Something Fund. Either start a company or start college.
Plenty of great entrepreneurs start their company with little to no experience. Having done both, I think you can learn a lot more starting a company than you can at college.
I.e. if the author's son or daughter opts for starting a company, works hard and diligently, and after three years it goes bankrupt due to:
- A competitor cuts them out of the market
- New regulatory laws make the original idea unprofitable/untenable
- A technical breakthrough makes the product unappealing
The boy/girl may have worked as hard as if they were in college, or even way harder. And after three years their company is in debt, they have nothing worth selling/salvaging, and they are 3 years late to go to college.
Also, it is not clear if the parent intends to provide something more than just seeding money. From the article it looks like that. Is this really so?
Suppose that the "baby-entrepreneur" has a really dumb idea for a start-up, but they are "passionate" about this (how many 18-years old can be passionate about financially untenable ideas?). Will the author provide money even if he cannot see anything reasonable getting out of it?
And after it has failed, will he have enough money to pay an equivalent sum for going back to college?
Of course I'd help my kid get the company off the ground in whatever capacity they'd like. I help a half dozen companies now in an advisory role and I'd do the same for them.
You've just described how I view the idea of myself going to college straight after high school, despite being quite able to afford an exploratory period and having been a straight A student for a long time. I was burned out on studying for a grade (among other things).
While you're right to be wary of shoving someone onto the entrepreneurship track, you'll not convince me that shoving them onto the college track is necessarily better. There are plenty of stories of burned cash, family resentment over "wasted" college educations, and learning the sometimes brutal lessons that your college degree (if you managed to finish it) no longer guarantees you a good job, or that debt sucks.
I ended up spending very little of my "college" fund, and after some much cheaper and less stressful non-college exploration, eventually landed a career in gamedev - something I'd extensively studied outside of school for myself and my interests rather than a grade, and cost me very little more than my time.
Pointing a kid in the right direction is high art.
I tested out of the Spanish (approximately by knowing "perro", that is knowing some basic vocabulary) and still got 8 credit hours for it.
Math, chemistry and physics (4,1 and 2 classes) are technically liberal arts, but they were also sort of applicable to my degree.
I suppose there is an argument to be made that 1.5 semesters is a "strong" requirement, but not really, especially when it includes 3-4 beginner classes that are mostly surveys.
Not everyone has to go to college, either. It's always interesting that these discussions often have people both saying that college made them much more open minded, and heaping derision on unorthodox approaches like these. It's great that some people find college useful for their personal growth. It would be even greater if college also impressed upon those who attended the fact that not everyone is like them and not everyone is going to find it as useful as they did.
When I compare my personal growth, I've found that non-college experiences were much more effective for myself. People talk about learning as a group and having their ideas challenged - I've found that (again, for myself) this is much more effective in groups outside of college, where you get a much greater diversity in terms of age and experience (the relative homogeneity of college might be part of the reason why some of its graduates extol it's virtues as a homogeneous solution). College is also highly structured and hierarchical compared to many other experiences, and I wonder if that's one of the reason why some of its graduates don't see similar opportunities in less structured experiences.
Again, if college works for you, great. But we should stop acting like it works for anyone, or that it's the only approach (or even a particularly good approach) for personal exploration and enrichment.
That is the gamble. If your 19 year old kid burns $100,000 over 1 year trying to start a business, or, pays another form of "tuition" at a traditional university?
Probably good cases to be made either way.
We don't accept dissent or discussion here?
Basically this means more or less that on the day your son (or daughter) becomes 18 you put on the table 2,000x100 US$ bills in a few neat stacks and ask him/her whether he/she likes it better to:
1) Study (hard) for the next 5 years (possibly in a remote city), living with one or more co-students in a tiny apartment and receive - say - some 500-600 bucks each month for petty expenses
2) get - here and now - all the 200,000 US$ as long as they are used ONLY in expenses related to the building of a new company, but of course with no particular form of control on expenses, as I trust you and you are big enough to make your own decisions.
With rigorously invented numbers (i.e. pure speculation or guessing), I would expect that out of 100 choosing option #1 70 would get after 5 or 6 years studying and a degree (without student debt to hunt them for the rest of their life) a decent, qualified job (and income), 20 a somewhat underpaid job, 5 no stable job/income and 5 (for one reason or the other) something else.
Of those that chose option #2, I would expect that 5 manage to build a "successful" company, 15 a more or less good company (anyway providing enough income to have bills paid and raise a family) and 80 either building a company soon going to Chapter 11/bankrupcy or building no company at all.
The good question would be how many of 18 years old would choose option #1 over #2?
And would you really want your parents to be your venture capitalists? Your parents may not be focused on getting to a quick exit like most traditional VC investors, but if the whole point of them releasing the money in tranches is because they don't trust your inexperienced judgement, that's just a recipe for your parents second-guessing your every move as a founder.
Children need to be able to fail, and quickly and safely recover from that failure - college, with poor freshman year grades and learning to live with less-than-perfect roommates and all the rest, is a much better way to impart that than letting your kids blow through a quarter million dollars with little more to show than a high school diploma at the end of it.
There are hundreds of cheaper, safer, and more responsible ways of doing that long before then.
I don't think colleges in US can be as hard as universities in some european counties. Especially where universities are free.
I would be curious to hear if there are some exceptions.
So for many people, acquiring signals is a complete waste of time and money.
I suspect that for the latter ones (how many? maybe 20-30) that wouldn't even be educative at all.
18 year olds are idiots (source: was one) and are simply not capable of managing organizations of adult humans.
This is key imo. Even if it means starting small little business type things like selling candy at school. Teach them how to keep track of profit/losses/expenses, how to recognize opportunities and how to test the waters before jumping fully in. I do this with my 13 year old son. His most successful business so far has brought him $4500 in revenue.
I don't call it entrepreneur training or even training at all. He doesn't even really realize he is learning. It is something fun we do together and he has tasted what it feels like to make his own money. It has allowed him to save and buy his own things.
When he graduates from high school, I won't push him one way or another (college vs entrepreneurship). I will leave that up to him but I hope at least I will have given him a little taste of entrepreneurship so he can make his own choice when the time comes. I will also heavily encourage him to work a few jobs at other companies first. That in itself is a huge learning experience.
The first is "degree doesn't matter! You need to go out and build something, and you don't need a degree to do it!"
The other is "we won't hire anyone except those with X STEM degree, possibly even not anyone unless they have a master's degree or higher."
As someone considering a career change (with an advanced degree) it's maddening. The message seems to be that if you don't have a core STEM degree, or haven't started a self-sustaining mega-profitable business, you have no ability to do anything.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than that societal perceptions of skill and ability seem seriously pathological.
I don't think everyone needs an undergrad degree, but it sure doesn't hurt. But by the same token, a degree isn't everything, and I think people need to take this position seriously if they're going to take it.
I would argue that it does. When you get a degree, you are mostly being guided into thinking patterns of academics i.e. the people who most likely did not pursue business... or worse condemn business in some way.
Even if starting your business requires several years of academic knowledge, I think it is much better if you start it without a degree anyway and then take courses along the way. That way, you will have a much better context for what you are learning because you can immediately apply some of it.
I guess it's better than a gender studies degree, but believe it or not, undergraduate education is not completely useless. I learned a hell of a lot.
Not sure I totally agree with this. I have meet a ton of very smart fully qualified engineers who have no business sense whatsoever.
That does not mean I am discounting the engineering degree. Not at all. At least an engineering degree will generally give you a very nice return. What makes a good engineer though is not often the same as what makes a good entrepreneur.
I think that is where we may disagree.
Plenty of Entrepreneurs who made it big without a degree. Some of the top of our time actually.
"for most people is an unreasonable trade-off of safety, personal time, health and comfort for nebulous "freedom" and a very unlikely chance at striking gold."
This I somewhat agree with but I oftentimes wonder if a lot of the "very unlikely chance" part of it has to do with the inaccurate and unrealistic image the start-up scene places along with the lack of good education on starting a business. You can build a very comfortable life running your own business without being a unicorn but seems as though most are shooting for unicorn level. That I believe is where most of the failure comes from.
It really isn't all that difficult to build a $200k to $500k+ year small business. Easier today than ever. But that's not sexy so people shoot for the stars and miss more often than not.
If I've done my job as a parent well, I won't have to worry about policing the "proper" use of this money.
Except they still have to come up with a rational case, and endure lots of dad talks, and dad advice before they can use it.
Oh, and building his twitter/thinkfluencer brand
Once you have that in place, if not in the education system, then through parenting and after-school programs, then by the time college comes around the "decision to start a business" won't come with the unnecessary risk of not knowing how to run one.
As some of the other commenters are suggesting, it may be too much of a jump to offer such a choice to the child at 18 if the child was not preparing for such an opportunity.
Homeschooling has its own critics and supporters and we don't need to get into that here. But my question is this: If he's going to trust his child to make a choice at 18, why not even earlier? How about 14? Or, in other words, why not have their education focus on learning how to make their own decisions as early as possible? And if school doesn't provide this for his children, should they be there?
Granted, the author doesn't outline what he plans on doing between now and the end of high school for his kids so maybe he is, in fact, preparing them for this decision. I just think that the decision would be too drastic to spring on an 18 year old who has had no preparation for it.
If you spend 5 years only playing your favorite parts of your favorite songs on a guitar, you're not going to be a good musician.
Just like if you spend five years doing the fun parts of programming or engineering or history, you won't be a good programmer, engineer, or historian.
College (or an apprenticeship, or trade school) isn't required to learn the hard/boring parts, but very few people are capable of doing so on their own at that age.
If you started to self-direct at 13 (or earlier), you'd probably be pretty self-disciplined at 18.
I would even speculate that how interesting / boring you find something is not static, but that otherwise boring things can start to seem interesting once it's clear that they are relevant to something you want to achieve.
Personally I learnt math mostly from self-study, and I've learnt it well enough that I now have published research (see , also  is in review and has been recommended for acceptance with revisions by the referee), have been invited to give talks about my research , and have stayed for a few months as a visiting researcher at University of Muenster . I don't consider myself as having a lot of self-discipline; I have a tendency to hit the snooze button many times, to overeat, to let my room get messy, etc. But once I have an idea, I want to flesh it out and share it with other people, which motivates me to do the things that are necessary for this, which are sometimes boring.
But I do think more folks would try if they could take the college money and invest it in things like starting a business, no matter what the business is, and wish more folks had this option.
I don't think these options are comparable. The other is a structured path to more or less predictably increase ones human capital while the other is a high risk, unstructured mess. I suppose the key is this - can the person thrive in a non-structured space, and would they enjoy the hustle of entrepreneurship.
I'm also a fan of affordable trade schools and different types of apprenticeships or work/school combinations. They sometimes like comparing apples to oranges, but I also think they give more of the population viable options for their life.
But you are correct, it does depend on the person and what, exactly, they want to do. I'd not just give the money without strings attached: After all, college funds depend on the person getting into college. Startup funds would depend on them learning the skills they need, have a seemingly viable business plan, and possibly a backup plan in case it goes awry.
When the company turns out to be viable the person would not be looking for a job. But when it falls despite all the free runway the experience is likely much lesser than that of someone who failed by a tiny main bootstrapping or convincing real investors.
Why not a third option of a fund to pay for 4 years of living/travelling expenses, courses/books/workshops on a chosen field of knowledge?
There is just one, and if your kid burned it, there is no more for the college.
(Norway here btw)