PayPal Founder Offers Internships for Bright College Students

Barry Lenson

PayPal Founder Offers Internships for Bright College Students

“Colleges have long been engaged in an odd deal with students and their parents. Paying for a college education — or taking on a huge amount of debt to finance an education — is a transaction in which most of the buyers and most of the sellers have fundamentally different understandings of the product.” – Naomi Schaefer Rile writing in The Washington Post

“What is a College Education Really Worth?” by Naomi Schaefer Rile in The Washington Post reports that Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, has funded 24 internships for students who leave college for two years to work on technology and science innovations.  Each of these 24 students is receiving $100,000 to be in the program. 

So, what’s going on here? 

There are several ways to interpret these internships. One is to think that Thiel is trying to question and undermine the perceived value of college education. As Rile writes, “In the college transaction, most parents think they’re buying their kids a credential, a better job and a ticket, economically speaking at least, to the American dream. Most college professors and administrators (the good ones, anyway) see their role as producing liberally educated, well-rounded individuals with an appreciation for certain kinds of knowledge. If they get a job after graduation, well, that’s nice, too.”

Another way to interpret the story is to believe that Thiel’s program offers some of the most desirable two-year internships anywhere for college students. That interpretation sheds a different, and positive, light on the story. Also, college and work are not an either/or equation. I wonder how many of Thiel’s interns will return to college to finish their degree work once their two-year internships are over. Sure, several famous entrepreneurs dropped out of college and never returned after they launched their companies. But there is no guarantee that some of Thiel’s interns won’t go back to finish their degrees, even after they taste real-world earnings and success. 

There is no doubt that American tuition fees are out of control. No doubt either about the fact that a college education doesn’t guarantee a job after graduation. And many recent news stories point out that more Americans are resisting the idea of paying $200,000 for a diploma that doesn’t assure a job. Yet it is probably wrong to assume that most all American students and families see colleges as little more than training schools for specific jobs. I know a number of students who didn’t discover their professional interests until they entered college and were required to take a bunch of core curriculum courses.

Look at our own StraighterLine students. We have students in the military who are taking online courses to speed their entry into college when they return to civilian life. Also, working parents who are getting a start in college by taking courses online. There are students at StraighterLine who are taking courses so they can enjoy the satisfaction of mastering Algebra or other subjects that eluded them in high school. Some students are taking courses online so they can matriculate at StraighterLine Partner Colleges. And we recently profiled Inessa Volkonidina, a student who is taking StraighterLine courses to prepare for medical school

There are as many reasons to go to college as there are students. Whatever your goal may be, StraighterLine is ready to help you reach it without overspending or going into debt.   

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