Non-sequitur "gotcha" reporting at its worst. I expected better from Yglesias.
In the end it is mostly a depiction of how having a degree is a door opener because it is a default filter for almost all hiring managers. Even hiring managers employed by a vocal advocate of skipping college.
"The elitist view in the U.S. is that even if people concede that college is not for education, the caveat will be that, well, surely it’s for all the smart people. What we want to suggest is that there are some very smart and very talented people who don’t need college."
"...are there 20 of those 60,000 who should perhaps not go to college--that does not seem like a terribly controversial statement. That the more talented you are, the more narrow the set of choices you should make? And that if you're a really smart person, the only thing in the world you can do is to go to Harvard?"
The problem is that these reporters that Peter Thiel is anti-education or at least anti-higher education. He isn't. He has a problem with the current model of education. He thinks that there are more efficient models of education that are worth trying.
It's not black and white, it's much more nuanced. Thiel cannot go back in time and change the education model in the past. In the future if Theil's model works we will see more ads looking for people who started companies.
I don't agree with everything he says but I can respect his desire to change higher.
Job ads requirements are basically a way to scare away those who are limited by artificial restrictions.
Quantitative skills in a field such as computer science,
mathematics, statistics, physics, or engineering; no
college degree required
I cannot imagine high schools providing substantial education to develop skills in those fields.
Thiel is, first and foremost, advancing his own interests by enouraging students to drop out and pursue startups in which he will have a stake.
He wants to hide this among otherwise valid criticisms of the system. But he really can't.
Unless he's paying you not to attend, you are foolish not to attend university because of what he says (versus your own reasons).
Elite schools are especially bad about this. The average GPA at Harvard is 3.45 (it was 2.5 in 1950). Yale is at 3.5 (was 2.5 in 1963). Stanford is at 3.5 (was 2.6 in 1948). At one point, over 90% of the graduating class at Harvard graduated with honors.
If Thiel is requiring a top-tier school, it is because of the network the person brings, not because of the education.
Grade inflation also applies mostly to non-STEM majors. Average GPA for EECS at many of the top CS schools is significantly below a 3.0. Incidentally, it creates a feedback loop: grade inflation leads people to obsesses over their GPA and to switch from STEM to the majors more susceptible to grade inflation when their GPA falls below a certain point.
I do wholeheartedly agree with you: using GPA as a filter is fairly pointless.
Apologies; carry on.
We should stop playing follow the leader. Peter's advice will work for many, but not for all. One size does not fit all. Maybe Peter cares about people's university credentials, but when hiring I'll look at each person on a case by case basis as a sum of their parts. There's some great people out there without ivy league degrees, and some terrible people out there with ones. Better to evaluate the stack of history and competency than a single component.
Optimizing for current conditions: right now, a lot of the best job applicants have degrees from top-tier schools, and if you need to hire someone today, using education as a job filter is a reasonable choice.
Changing future conditions: there are plausible arguments that universities should not have a monopoly on education and credentialing, and promoting alternatives to a college degree may be a reasonable long-term advocacy and philanthropic goal.
The real story is: what's going on with this new hedge fund? Is the focus on "conclusions that are fundamentally correct but missed by most of the world" an actual strategy or a contrarian buzzword?
Being an entrepreneur--even a successful one!--doesn't necessarily require a college degree. But are there jobs (perhaps this one?) where college classes are useful enough to warrant this bullet point in the job description?
I'm not sure--I wasn't a stats/math major. But I'd be interested in hearing some informed opinions on this matter.
These sorts of requirements aren't put in place because there are particular skills necessary to do the job. They are in place to cut down the applicant pool to a reasonable size while raising the average quality (or at least not lowering it). It's classic signaling.
They let the university do most of the screening for them, weeding out the people who aren't smart, driven and dedicated enough to get into and graduate from a top-tier school.
Some extremely prestigious consulting firms won't look at a resume that isn't from one of a handful of schools. They fully realize that this policy results in them outright rejecting hundreds of excellent applicants. But they still end up with top-tier people, and they don't have to wade through tens of thousands of resumes to do it.
Highly sought-after employers can do this. But it doesn't work as well the further down the corporate "food chain" you go. This works especially well in industries like finance where ambition and a drive to perform while working within a fairly narrow set of parameters is paramount.
Peter Thiel is a big name, his companies are big names. Therefore they can use this strategy to their advantage, even if they don't particularly care about any specific set of skills.
Wow. Since the rest of your post seems to equate "top-tier school" with the Ivy's (plus maybe MIT/stanford or whatever) this is just amazingly wrong to the point of being offensive.
There are tons of smart, driven and dedicated high school students in America who have no chance of getting into Ivy League schools. If you're lucky enough to be born into the right family so that you can go to the right private jewish prep school in one of a handful of posh suburbs, then being smart, driven and dedicated means you can probably get into one of the Ivy schools.
For every kid going to a public school in the midwest, who has to check the "will need financial assistance" checkbox (if the application fee alone didn't make them skip applying) and doesn't have any legacy or connections, then applying to Harvard is a lottery ticket even with perfect grades, stellar test scores and a long resume of extra-curriculars.
There are plenty of smart, driven and dedicated 18 year olds who won't be heading to Harvard or Yale next fall. Admittance to one of those schools correlates more with growing up privileged than it does about intelligence.
Admissions at these schools actually work a little bit like hiring at prestigious firms in this sense, right? Plenty of awesome applicants get rejected or are priced out of even applying (as you pointed out). But since the average applicant is still quite qualified, that doesn't really matter to the institution, nor to our discussion.
As something of a footnote, I really didn't mean to imply that only Ivy League grads are smart, driven and dedicated. I'm definitely not one, and I like to think I'm reasonably bright.
One should also remember the Hedge Fund Long Term Capital Management who hired 2 managers who had won the Nobel prize in economics - and they blew up (so math skills is not everything)
In French universities, you get marks between 0 and 20 (you need 10 to pass a class, and in some cases you can pass a class with 8 if it averages out with certain other classes). In some universities (classes préparatoires), marks superior to 10 are extremely rare, with a class average at ~6-7 being common, as professors want to push students to the max.
A student having an average of 15 would be a very, very strong student (the top student in my university, whom I was friends with, had an average of 14.5 or so at graduation).
So would employers just divide that by 5 to get an American GPA? That would barely be a GPA of 3 for top students— I doubt they would get any consideration from such employers, although they're probably much more competent than a top-tier student with a GPA of 3.5+ (I'm not too familiar with undergraduate studies in the US, but it seems that as long as you show up and do the homework, you pretty much get an A in the class).
that is emphatically untrue (either that, or myself and all of my classmates are a lot dumber than we think we are)
A high GPA - that's an understandable requirement - but to base it arbitrarily on a 'top-tier' university is depriving qualified, talented employees from consideration.
Unless your are google or facebook, you are not going to be able to just turn away qualified people. It makes it too easy for your competition.
I, for example, went to a state school because quite frankly, I was not really interested in taking on hundreds of thousands in debt to finance a college education. I was accepted to a couple of top-tier universities but for financial reasons, attendance at such schools was not feasible.
Creativity/individuality/freedom/etc are all very highly valued and encouraged at the best schools. Harvard was remarkably open and innovative. MIT even more so.
(Tangential, in response to the article - Harvard's very accommodating and even encouraging of people taking time off school to pursue other things. They have an indefinite leave of absence policy, which means that if I ever decide, 2, 5, 10, or 20 years down the line that I'd really like to go back to school and get a degree, they'll let me come back. Very nice and farsighted people.)
That's great. I wonder if many (any?) other universities have such a policy? At my school, I would have to formally re-apply after being gone for a year or so. That's the sort of policy I would encourage my children to take into account when they're choosing where to go to school.
Peter is an investor - if he's able to monetize a model where a group of students drop out of college for a startup and on the whole make his fund money, he will do so. There is no fault in that but don't think he is looking out for the good of anyone but his clients and himself - its not evil - its a business model.
The unfortunate part is that many (but certainly not all) develop these critical thinking skills to question everything in the very institutions he is influencing young kids to drop out of. I know this comes off as "stay in school kids" but I'm more hoping that students will think for themselves and identify their own reason for dropping out before leaping.
The former. I know people who finished their undergrad degrees after stopping out for years, and it wasn't much of a problem at all.
You could very reasonably drop out, start a company, have it fail, finish school, then work for the hedge fund. There's no problem here.