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PayPal CEO Pays Students $100K to Quit College

PayPal CEO Pays Students $100K to Quit College

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. Image courtesy of The Thiel Foundation.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

June 02, 2011

A survey conducted by Fastweb of our 16-year-old members revealed that 78% of teenagers would still go to college even if they knew they would be a millionaire without a college education.

But is that really the case? What if a billionaire paid you $100,000 to quit college?

In September, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, announced a new kind of fellowship for young inventors, which paid them $100,000 to NOT attend school. The 20 Under 20 Fellowship would challenge young inventors to get started on their inventions immediately, rather than waiting four years to graduate from college. Fellowship recipients would have to commit to not attending school for two years and devote that time solely to their entrepreneurial pursuits.

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After the announcement in September, the Thiel Foundation received 400 applications for the program, according to CBS News. “We announced the program last September and it was an incredible caliber of people,” Thiel said in an interview with CBS News. "It was a really encouraging thing. There’s so much pessimism about the future of the U.S. and looking at the amount of people who are passionate about creating great, new businesses gives one a real sense that the future of the U.S. is going to be a lot better.

He added in the same interview, “This is what the program is not about: dropping out. Dropping out has the connotation you stop education and do nothing. I think all of these people will do a lot more outside of college than they would have done in college.”

Fellowship recipients were plucked from the likes of Harvard, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as reported by TIME. So what can these former students learn in Silicon Valley that couldn’t be taught at some of the most prestigious schools in the country?

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CBS News reports that one of these young inventors has begun to reinvent the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometer, a medical device that analyzes a person’s physical health and is typically sold for $80,000 – $250,000. He hopes his new device will sell for $5,000 – $10,000, making it more accessible to third world countries and citizen doctors. Another fellowship recipient is focusing his efforts on the electrical vehicle industry.

If these young entrepreneurs are successful, they will join the ranks of other famous college dropouts, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. The world will just have to wait two years to see if these young inventors are thriving without a higher education – or if they must reenroll in school.


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