a16z Podcast

The Question of Education

Marc Andreessen and Dylan Field

Posted September 10, 2020

Monopoly, oligopoly, cartel. All three of those words can describe the (not so) modern education system today, given the cost structures, economics, and accreditation capture — in everything from who can and can’t start a new university (when was the last time a significant change happened there anyway?!) to where government funding really goes to the student loan and debt crisis.

Yet degrees do matter, just not for the reasons we think. So what are the tradeoffs — when it comes to the “right” school, making money, and assessing skills objectively — between what’s been called “hard” (B.S.) and “soft” (B.A.) degrees? What’s the best book on career advice, and what advice does Marc Andreessen — who went to a public university, worked on a revolutionary project there, and started a company right after — have for students (and others contemplating change in their careers)… and especially for those considering dropping out, delaying, or skipping college altogether?

Andreessen shares his thoughts on the purpose, past and present of education (briefly touching on the impact of the pandemic as well) with Dylan Field, CEO of Figma, which is free for students and educators. The Q&A was recorded in August 2020 and originally appeared as a video in their “Back to School?” interview series; it was actually inspired by the question of taking a gap year and questions about whether or not to go back to school this year that came up in their Virtual Campus community of students from across the world.