Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, by far the richest and loudest voice in the new campaign to debunk the power of a college degree, has announced exactly which precious twentysomethings he'll be incentivizing not to go to college. The early Facebook backer and staunch Libertarian, who received both a B.A. and a law degree from Stanford, is paying 24 promising American youths $100,000 apiece for two years from the Thiel Foundation to get to work on their business ideas rather than bone up on Chaucer. Of Thiel's personal lottery winners, only three are women. Others include Faheem Zaman, who aced all five SAT tests he's taken and wants to build a mobile payment system to decentralize banks to help the global poor save, and Christopher Rueth, who as a high schooler built a website to stop his school district from snooping on student e-mails.
The bubblicious interest in start-ups has underscored the American entrepreneurial dream: dropping out to build a billion-dollar company. But Thiel's sudden urgency comes as the job market continues to look sluggish and student debt seems to far outweigh the graduates' earning potential. It'll be awhile before anyone knows whether these kids — or other tech hopefuls — will join Thiel on the Forbes richest billionaire's list or build lasting companies. But in the meantime, they can enjoy knowing they'll have an easier time paying off student loans than the president of the United States.