boy blowing bubbles (iStockPhoto image)

Sarah Lacy has written article on TechCrunch (link at the end of this post) covering her interview with Peter Thiel. It neatly gets to the heart of the problem with higher education. Although targeting the US. The UK certainly has the same problem, if not other countries too.

Here are some highlights but read the article for the full story:

“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe. The excesses of both were always excused by a core national belief that no matter what happens in the world, these were the best investments you could make. Housing prices would always go up, and you will always make more money if you are college educated.

Like any good bubble, this belief– while rooted in truth– gets pushed to unhealthy levels.

I didn’t go to university for two reasons. 1. I had no idea what I wanted to do (well I kind of did, but I’d blown my chances by being lazy through school and not getting the grades I should have), 2. Going to university meant giving up my horse since neither my parents or me could afford both (they couldn’t really afford either).  The thought of leaving university with any debt at all was enough to put me off going. As it turns out, career-wise everything turned out OK.  I took a partial degree in computer science through evening classes, whilst working full-time and confining horse riding to the weekends. After hitting degree-postered brick walls for a few years, I found myself working at Microsoft. Where people seemed to either have a Ph.D from Oxbridge or no degree like me. And at last I was able to flourish.

A higher education can certainly help ease your path into the world of work. But not at any cost, financially or emotionally. Determined and talented people will still succeed with or without the certificate. One road is just a little bumpier, harder and longer than the other.

…Or at least it used to be. With the rise of tuition fees, debts above £30,000 are going to become the norm for many new graduates. Regardless of university or degree. That’s a lot of baggage to carry into work and a bubble that needs bursting.

The full article on TechCrunch: Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.

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