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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Bill Gross Gets It



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Financial manager extraordinaire Bill Gross (a friend in the securities industry calls him, “The most influential man in investment management not named Buffet”) had some strong words the contemporary college experience:

“A mind is a precious thing to waste, so why are millions of America’s students wasting theirs by going to college? All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four-year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing, but at least it used to serve a purpose. It weeded out underachievers and proved at a minimum that you could pass an SAT test.”

He points to Peter Thiel, head of hedge fund Clarium Capital, who has established a foundation to give 20 $100,000 grants to teenagers who would drop out of school and become not just tech entrepreneurs but world-changing visionaries. College, in Thiel’s mind, is stultifying and outdated, Gross writes, with very little value created despite the bump in earnings power that universities use as “their raison d’être in our modern world of money.”  

The problem, as we’ve discussed at length here at PBC, is that any desire to opt out of the (very expensive) four-year vacation is hampered by employers’ requiring degrees for even the most basic and elementary of jobs. It’s the last remaining clearly legal employment pre-screening mechanism, but with ever-greater numbers of graduates stumbling, hung over, from colleges with ever-lower standards, degrees will devalue in employers eyes even as its cost continues to soar.



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