During a fireside chat at the Satellite 2020 conference on Monday, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO shared his views on college.
During the audience Q&A portion, Musk was asked how colleges and industries could make it easier for students to afford college, as well as create more access for underprivileged students.
The tech CEO says he doesn’t think a college degree means you have “exceptional ability.”
He added that knowledge is available basically for free and that “you don’t need college to learn stuff.” Musk described college as a bunch of “annoying homework assignments” and said one of the main values of attending college is students spending time with people their own age before joining the workforce.
“I think colleges are basically for fun and to prove you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning,” Musk said, garnering a few laughs and applause.
He also said he wanted to make sure Tesla’s recruiting process didn’t have anything that says the company requires a college degree, calling the prerequisite as “absurd.” Musk expressed his admiration for people like Apple’s Steve Jobs, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Microsoft’s Bill Gates,, all of whom dropped out of college to start their own companies.
“But there is a requirement of ‘evidence of exceptional ability.’ I don’t consider going to college evidence of exceptional ability,” Musk said.
“In fact, ideally, you dropped out and did something.If you look at like, you know, Gates is a pretty smart guy, he dropped out. Jobs, pretty smart, he dropped out. Larry Ellison, smart guy, he dropped out. Like, obviously not needed. Did Shakespeare even go to college? Probably not.
Musk has said in the past that he thinks degrees from reputable universities are simply overrated. In January, he answered “Yes” on Twitter when he was asked if he was against requiring prospective employees to have college degrees.
In a 2014 interview with the German automotive publication Auto Bild, Musk also pointed to Jobs, Ellison and Gates as perfect examples of successful people who dropped out.
However, for his part, Musk does have a reputable degree. He spent two years studying at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned degrees in economics and physics.
Elon Musk did drop out of a Ph.D. program at Stanford University after only two days in California resulting to launch his first company, Zip2, instead. And it paid off because he made $22 million when Zip2 sold to Compaq in 1999.