Canadian teens get $100,000 to opt out of university
Along with 18 other teens from around the world, British Columbia’s Nick Liow, 18, and Ontario’s Nelson Zhang, 19, will spend the next two years using $100,000 to work on self-directed tech and science projects.
The catch: they must drop out of or postpone attending university.
Funded by Peter Thiel, one of the now-billionaire founders of PayPal, the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship asks would-be university students to think twice about shelling out thousands on a university degree, as Thiel said in an interview with National Review, “simply because that’s what everybody’s doing…If you borrowed money and went to a college where the education didn’t create any value, that is potentially a really big mistake.”
With many Canadian university grads putting their degree to work clearing tables and brewing coffee (the underemployment rate for Canadian grads between the ages of 25 and 29 is 40% according to the OECD), the value of a university education is under some scrutiny in Canada. The Canadian education system, unlike others around the world, doesn’t match workplace demands with the supply of graduates being produced. As a result, for example, a recent survey found that 34% of Canadian employers had difficulty finding candidates with the necessary skill set.
Thiel’s 20 Under 20 Fellowship, which has been called a “hack” of the educational system, might be on to something. Though many apply and few can participate in Thiel’s program, his fellowship is part of a larger movement – an education revolution – that’s questioning the value of a university degree. Higher education is not the only path towards a successful career and Thiel’s alternative education model encourages potential undergrads to be more mindful about their next steps when it comes to transitioning from high school to university.
It wouldn’t bode well for every potential university student to instead spend their tuition on opening a new business or inventing a new product, but for some, delayed or alternative education could be more worthwhile than an expensive degree and an intimidating loan.