This was first picked up (to my knowledge) by Matt Yglesias over at Moneybox. Peter Thiel’s company is looking to hire an Investment Analyst, and whoever writes up the job descriptions over there has specified that the ideal candidate will have a “High GPA from [a] top tier university”:
Thiel, of course, is the guy who created the press orgy around the concept of the “Tuition Bubble” by arguing that college was a waste of students time — that the road forward was, well, it was never quite clear. But it started with him paying people to either drop out of or not go to college, to prevent college from limiting their potential. Here’s a quote:
You know, we’ve looked at the math on this, and I estimate that 70 to 80 percent of the colleges in the U.S. are not generating a positive return on investment. Even at the top universities, it may be positive in some sense — but the counterfactual question is, how well would their students have done had they not gone to college? Are they really just selecting for talented people who would have done well anyway? Or are you actually educating them? That’s the kind of question that isn’t analyzed very carefully. My suspicion is that they’re just good at identifying talented people rather than adding value. So there are a lot of things about it that are very strange.
I don’t disagree with some of this – I think an awful lot of what we see as a result of choice of college is really just inputs into college acceptance, viewed four years later. Yet most critiques of college like Thiel’s miss that it’s pretty trivial to set up an alternative to college that just does what the Harvard admissions staff does to student transcripts, volunteer experience, and admission essays. If there really was a way to get early dibs on talent by hiring them out of high school, we’d be doing it already. We aren’t.
So why aren’t we? So why isn’t Thiel? What is it that we think that college degree gives us beyond a sort of native talent filtering?
I have some thoughts, which I’ll detail some other post. For now it’s probably worth it to note that Thiel’s own company doesn’t believe its own rhetoric. And if they don’t buy the whole “tuition bubble” premise, why the heck are we listening to Thiel?