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Thiel's college dropout plan scrutinized by '60 Minutes'

Investor and entrepreneur tells the CBS news magazine that a college degree is unnecessary for financial success, but critics call his program an elitist ploy.

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel.

Peter Thiel's plan to pay college students to develop their promising concepts instead of attending school is attracting students as well as critics.

Best known as a co-founder of PayPal, the Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur has also made early-stage investments in companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Now he's investing in college students, awarding fellowships of $100,000 each to youth under 20 years old, essentially encouraging them to drop out of college to become entrepreneurs.

In an interview for tonight's "60 Minutes," Thiel tells Morley Safer that his program is a viable alternative to what he sees as a largely ineffective university system in which costs far outweigh benefits.

"We have a bubble in education, like we had a bubble in housing...everybody believed you had to have a house, they'd pay whatever it took," says Thiel. "Today, everybody believes that we need to go to college, and people will pay -- whatever it takes."

He also notes that a college degree is not necessary to land a high-paying job.

"There are all sorts of vocational careers that pay extremely well today, so the average plumber makes as much as the average doctor," Thiel tells Safer.

Critics call Thiel's plan an elitist ploy that only encourages others to drop out or not attend college at all.

"Peter Thiel has made so much money that he is out of touch with the real world," Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur who teaches at Duke and Stanford, told Safer. "He doesn't understand how important education is for the masses."

"What I worry about is a message that's getting out there to America that it's okay to drop out of school, that you don't have to get college. Absolutely dead wrong."

"60 Minutes" airs at 7 p.m. PT/ET on CBS stations. Full segment embedded below.