What do Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell and Larry Ellison have in common (besides being billionaires)?

For one thing, they were all super successful and dominated their business categories. In fact, they created new business categories.

They also did not have four-year degrees. They dropped out of college. They did not let a four-year degree get in their way of learning.

There has never been a time that the debate over whether a four-year degree is “worth it,” has ever been more valid.

It is interesting to examine the current pandemic’s impact on universities. Now that some universities have introduced “virtual learning” at the same tuition level, it is fair to ask the question, “Is it a lesser education in a virtual learning environment?” And if not, “Why can’t we open up virtual learning for all of those that want to attend a university at a distance and not incur the cost of being on campus?”

How do you answer both without getting caught in a pickle? The key is that it is less about the four-year degree and it is more about the ongoing commitment to learning, incorporating the learning and executing.

Calvin Coolidge said that “The world is filled with educated derelicts,” and he was correct. College is one of the worst values for learning. That ship sailed a long time ago, when college was originally for the privileged. An argument can be made today that it still is.

We are living in a period where the rate of acceleration of technology is clearly outpacing the ability for colleges to adapt in order to teach current technologies and approaches to the emerging world. The pandemic has made it clearer than ever, that career success is no longer dependent on a four-year college degree – if it ever was.

The gap between the diverging rate of change of technology and the ability for colleges to adapt over time, is where self-learning, entrepreneurism, development of new categories that birth new technologies and services, all occur.

It is what Dell, Gates, Zuckerberg, and Jobs did brilliantly.