Do Too Many Kids Go To College?

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel argues for the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College" in an Oct. 12 Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. i i

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PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel argues for the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College" in an Oct. 12 Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

Lois Bernstein
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel argues for the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College" in an Oct. 12 Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel argues for the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College" in an Oct. 12 Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

Lois Bernstein

Getting a college degree is often touted as a way to increase your income and your ability to compete in the job market.

But are too many unprepared students being pushed into taking on large amounts of debt? And would top students with an entrepreneurial bent be better off forgoing college and instead trying to become the next Steve Jobs?

A team of experts took on the topic in the latest debate from Intelligence Squared U.S. — the program's first live debate in Chicago. They faced off two against two on the motion "Too Many Kids Are Going To College."

Before the debate, the audience at Venue Six10 at the Spertus Center voted 39 percent in favor of the motion and 40 percent against, with 21 percent undecided. Following the debate, 47 percent agreed that "Too Many Kids Go To College" while 46 percent disagreed — giving the side arguing for the motion a narrow win. Seven percent remained undecided.

The Oct. 12 debate was moderated by ABC News' John Donvan. Those debating:

FOR THE MOTION

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is an advocate of young people's exploring alternatives to a college education. This year he launched the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, a two-year mentoring program that provides $100,000 in grants toward building the fellows' businesses in biotech, technology, finance, education and more. Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, currently serves as president of Clarium Capital Management LLC and managing partner of The Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund.

A political scientist, Charles Murray is the author of two widely debated social policy books, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980 and, with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. In his most recent book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, he argues that too many people are going to college.

 Vivek Wadhwa (left) and Henry Bienen argue against the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College." i i

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Vivek Wadhwa (left) and Henry Bienen argue against the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College."

Lois Bernstein
 Vivek Wadhwa (left) and Henry Bienen argue against the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College."

Vivek Wadhwa (left) and Henry Bienen argue against the motion "Too Many Kids Go To College."

Lois Bernstein

AGAINST THE MOTION

Vivek Wadhwa is director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University and a senior research associate for the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. Wadhwa advises several start-ups, founded two software companies and is a columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Henry Bienen, president emeritus of Northwestern University, launched his career in academics at Princeton University in 1966 as an assistant professor. Bienen is one of the first three university presidents awarded the Carnegie Corp. Academic Leadership Award. He is chairman of the board of Rasmussen College, on the board of the Chicago Public Schools and a member of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Economic Development and Planning Committee.

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