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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 12, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Bring on the computer geeks

If you quit school now, you could be making six figures before you turn 30.

College has traditionally been the pathway to higher-paying and better jobs, but the current unemployment rate and rising college tuitions have tossed this old adage into question. As the American tech industry thrives and needs more programmers, designers and researchers, the best of which make upwards of $100,000, a growing faction of industry insiders see academics as a hindrance to economic growth. They say it keeps some of the best minds from the business world.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, has led the charge against traditional education with his 20 Under 20 fellowship. The program recruits 20 of the brightest students from top universities and invests $100,000 into each of them — on one condition. The recruits must quit school and join Thiel for two years in San Francisco to begin entrepreneurships in fields like robotics and information services.

Thiel is part of a growing group that believes too many of the best minds are caught doing research in academia, when really these young thinkers should be tapped now to develop creative and new ideas that can solve old problems. By providing them with the resources to get started, Thiel believes the fellowships could produce the next wave of technology innovators.

College students now learn to research and analyze, and how to apply for existing jobs. But colleges seem to be lacking when it comes to teaching students how to turn their own ideas and projects into successful businesses. Countless good ideas are lost because of students’ lack of understanding about how to break out on their own.

The technology sector is growing and invading an increasing number of industries. But even skilled workers looking for these jobs aren’t meeting the rising demand. This is because most graduates lack a basic understanding of computer science, which keeps people from exploring it. It’s easy to choose subjects like English or history as an elective when a student is already familiar with them, but computers can intimidate those who haven’t studied the mechanics behind them.

The U.S. needs a new education standard that reconsiders the digitization of a growing number of fields, from health care to taxi services. The country is experiencing a tech growth spurt, but it lacks the trained personnel needed to fulfill the increasing demand for laborers. Either through better technology education or an increased focus on entrepreneurship, the U.S. must modernize or risk losing its tech dominance to another country.

TJ Gunther is a senior journalism major. Email him at tgunthe1@ithaca.edu