Mac prez: Thiel's offer misses the point of college

In his occasional column for The Huffington Post, Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg takes issue (sometimes snarkily) with the logic behind entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s offer of $100,000 to selected young people to pursue entrepreneurial ideas instead of college:

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Mr. Thiel is correct and that the United States can improve its economic future by strategically lowering the level of educational attainment of its population. True, there is no past or present example of a country having done this, but Americans like to be exceptional, and we might as well be the first. …

Instead I would advance the radical notion that education has value upon which one cannot fix a monetary price — that pursuing a college degree and owning shares of Pets.com are not more or less the same thing.

Unless one believes that there is both an intrinsic value to becoming more broadly and deeply educated and a civic value to having an educated populace, Mr. Thiel is correct — sort of.

The higher education systems of Europe and Japan have a more narrowly vocational focus than does the system in the United States, yet there is no evidence that this has resulted over time in more robust economic growth. But presumably international economics is another of those subjects better skipped so that one can… get on with it.