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Growing Entrepreneurs Outside the Classroom
CNBC.com | September 19, 2011 | 10:08 AM EDT

If two of America's greatest technology innovators dropped out of college to start game-changing companies, then you might pardon another one for encouraging a new generation of students to quit school and create ventures of their own.

PayPal founder Peter Thiel may not be a household name like Microsoft's Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, but he may wind up making a big name for himself through his entrepreneurial fellowship.

The Thiel Fellowship , first announced in September 2010, is now underway, with 24 members, all under 20 years old and all recipients $100,000 awards to quit college and create ventures of their own.

The fellowship, like its similarly named foundation, strikes some as a wiser version of the tech incubators of the 1990s.

“We’re trying to encourage technology innovation,” James O'Neil, Thiel Foundation's executive director, tells CNBC. “We’re not trying to recreate the '90s. That resulted in the tech bubble, but we’re trying to create sustained innovation to grow the economy.”

Thiel's effort is not the only one of its kind, but given the founder's high profile it has added new heat to a burning debate about education and innovation.

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