The worthlessness of a college degree is “one of the year’s most fashionable ideas,” according to New York Magazine.
“The cost of college . . . has grown far too high, the return far too uncertain, the education far too lax,” skeptics say.
James Altucher, a New York–based venture capitalist and finance writer, is the author of “8 Alternatives to College.” He sees higher education as “an institutionalized scam—college graduates hire only college graduates, creating a closed system that permits schools to charge exorbitant prices and forces students to take on crippling debt.” Altucher wants to “reduce demand so costs go down.”
Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire, sees higher education as a bubble with “hyperinflated prices, investments by ignorant consumers funded largely by debt, and widespread faith in increasing returns.” He’s offered $100,000 and the mentorship of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to 20 young people 19 and under who promise to stay out of college for two years.
In March, “Professor X,” an anonymous English instructor at two middling northeastern colleges, published In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, an expansion of an Atlantic essay arguing that college has been dangerously oversold and that it borders on immoral to ask America’s youth to incur heavy debt for an education for which millions are simply ill-equipped.
Professor X’s book came out on the heels of a Harvard Graduate School of Education report that made much the same point. The old policy cri de coeur “college for all,” the report argues, has proved inadequate; rather than shunting everyone into four-year colleges, we should place greater emphasis on vocational programs, internships, and workplace learning.
Then, last month, a front-page article in the Times delivered striking news: Student-loan debt in the U.S. is approaching the trillion-dollar mark, outpacing credit-card debt for the first time in history. With all that debt, more and more are asking, what are we buying?
Altucher earned a computer science degree from Cornell, but doesn’t think it was worth the cost.
“People come back to me,” he says over lunch at a crowded restaurant in Union Square, “very smart, intelligent people, and say, ‘Look, college teaches you how to think, college teaches you how to network, college teaches you how to write.’ Personally, I didn’t learn how to do any of those things in college.” What Altucher learned to do in college, he says, is what all young men — “with almost no exceptions”—learn to do: drink and talk to women.
Despite graduating a year early, he ended up with $40,000 in debt. Here are more of Altucher’s reasons parents shouldn’t send their kids to college.
And here’s Professor X on the anti-college backlash.