Cutting Class For Careers

Actors Evan Ross, left, and Tracee Ellis Ross, children of superstar singer Diana Ross, present an award onstage during Film Life's 2006 Black Movie Awards at the Shrine Wiltern Theater on Oct. 15, 2006, in Los Angeles. GETTY IMAGES/Vince Bucci

A 21st century brain drain of undergraduates is underway, as high tech firms—themselves short of workers with computer skills—beg kids to leave college.

As CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports in an Eye on America report, in the new economy, graduation is not required.

Take 19-year-old Kurt Collins. He dropped out of MIT, his dream school, to go to work on the Internet, where as a web site designer he makes more than $100,000 a year, holds stock worth millions and every week turns away work.

"There you are, 18-years-old or 19-years-old, and already you have huge-name companies who are calling you every week, twice a week even," said Collins.

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Click here to read Part I of this Eye on America report by CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews.
It's the same for Rupa Hattangadi, who also designs Web sites. Last winter she was a sophomore at MIT, but left for a six-figure salary, plus equity.

"I'd get four or five calls a day, saying 'Why are you still in college?'" recalled Hattangadi. "It's the chance to get involved in the next 'Yahoo!' dot-com. I mean it's like the next thing, you know?"

Recruiters said the offers made to Kurt and Rita were not flukes.

Lisa Calla-Russ, a recruiter at Snelling Personnel, said firms don't feel guilty about luring kids away from completing their education.

"Do basketball coaches worry (about) interrupting kids careers?" she asked. "They need them. They need their skills."

In fact, the lure of the high tech economy is a lot like the NBA draft. The high tech athlete faces the same choice: one more year of college versus a slam dunk shot at millions.

"I knew I could make money in the industry. There was never a doubt in my mind," said Collins.

It's just another way the new economy is turning old values upside down. Just a few years ago, the very label "college dropout" signaled failure. Today, in the dot-com world, it's a mark of success.

Except perhaps at home. Kurt's mother Rita, herself a systems analyst, said she'll disown him if he fails to get his degree.

"He won't be my son anymore," said Rita Collins. "It's a dangerous trend if we allow our children to give up an education and enter the job market prematurel."

Rupa and Kurt both vow they will return to school one day. But while that degree is important long term, they said, the market is hot right now.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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