Dear Peter Thiel:
We disagree on whether college is necessary. First we debated whether too many kids go to college last October, and we just duked it out on CBS 60 Minutes. Judging by the feedback, America is deeply divided on this issue. Most people agree with you that college has become too expensive and that the trillion-dollar student debt is a serious problem. So do I.
But the solution isn’t to skip college. According to the U.S. census, 30.4 % of U.S. adults 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree. You may think this is high and point out that the number is increasing, but to me this is shockingly low. I believe that every young man and woman should have the same opportunity of going to college. It’s not only education; young people also gain valuable social skills from college. They learn how to interact and work with others, how to compromise, and how to deal with rejection and failure; they learn how to learn.
For the record, I am not advocating elite or expensive education. There are many state universities and community colleges that do a good job. That’s why the debt burden of the average American isn’t $250,000 as you often say, but $25,000 — which is less than the average car loan. This isn’t as hard to pay off when the yearly salary premium for a college graduate is $17,037 over a high school diploma holder.
I do agree that education costs are rising too rapidly and that with the fragile state of the economy many people can’t find jobs which allow them to pay off their loans. Not to mention, as you have said, it is wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on something that, by definition, can be exclusionary. But isn’t handpicking a group of once-college-bound teens for the Thiel Fellowship program essentially the same thing?