Hugh Pickens writes writes "Alex Williams writes in the NY Times that the idea that a college diploma is an all-but-mandatory ticket to a successful career is showing fissures. Inspired by role models like the billionaire drop-outs who founded Microsoft, Facebook, Dell, Twitter, Tumblr, and Apple, and empowered by online college courses, a groundswell of university-age heretics consider themselves a DIY vanguard, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick. 'Here in Silicon Valley, it's almost a badge of honor,' says Mick Hagen, 28, who dropped out of Princeton in 2006 and moved to San Francisco, where he started Undrip, a mobile app. 'College puts a lot of constraints, a lot of limitations around what you can and can't do. Some people, they want to stretch their arms, get out and create more, do more.' Perhaps most famously, Peter A. Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, in 2010 started his Thiel Fellowship program, which pays students under 20 years old $100,000 apiece to bag college and pursue their own ventures. 'People are being conned into thinking that this credential is the one thing you need to do better in life. They typically are worse off, because they have amassed all this debt.' UnCollege advocates a DIY approach to higher education and spreads the message through informational 'hackademic camps.' 'Hacking,' in the group's parlance, can involve any manner of self-directed learning: travel, volunteer work, organizing collaborative learning groups with friends. Students who want to avoid $200,000 in student-loan debt might consider enrolling in a technology boot camp, where you can learn to write code in 8 to 10 weeks for about $10,000. 'I think kids with a five-year head start on equally ambitious peers will be ahead in both education and income,' says James Altucher, a prominent investor, entrepreneur and pundit who self-published a book called '40 Alternatives to College.' 'They could go to a library, read a book a day, take courses online. There are thousands of ways.'"