Dale Stephens was home schooled for most of his life. And after his first semester of higher education at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., Stephens said he became frustrated with secondary education.
Now, just a couple months from finishing his freshman year, Stephens said he's learned college is not for him and he plans to drop out. So in February, Stephens created a website for people who may feel the same way. For $100 a month, students from all over the world can sign up online to receive a mentor in a field they want to pursue.
UnCollege officially launches in September and already it's caused a stir among educators and the media. Stephens' website was featured in a blog in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which called him a "disgruntled college student." Stephens has also been featured in The Huffington Post and several campus newspaper publications across the country -- each begging the question: could this 19-year-old college freshman be onto something?
ABC News: What is UnCollege?
Stephens: UnCollege is about helping people create their own education in the real world. We're connecting independent learners to mentors to support real world experience and passion-based learning. It's meant to compliment or replace traditional higher education. Ultimately we believe that there are some things you can only learn outside of a college classroom and that a college degree no longer guarantees success.
ABC News: What caused you to create UnCollege?
Stephens: Instead of just whining and complaining about my frustrations with higher education, I decided that I should practice what I preach and instead try to channel my frustrations into making a positive impact.
ABC News:What's the story behind its creation?
Stephens: Rebecca Goldman [a student at Dartmouth and friend of Stephens] and I met up over winter break and we were going back and forth about our frustrations with higher education. We found that even though we attended completely different institutions… we had precisely the same frustrations. And after having this conversation, I came to the conclusion that our frustrations were not due to the schools that we attended, but rather due to the common experience we shared.
ABC News: What kind of frustrations did you have with the current education system?
Stephens: We were frustrated that college is seen as prerequisite for professional success in society. We found that, academically, college shifted the focus from learning to performance. We were frustrated that a college education could easily cost upwards of $80,000. All of this led to the creation of a gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.
And so that got me away from thinking negatively about the institution I attend. Hendrix is a wonderful place and my frustrations are not due to this place or the people that go here. Rather, they're due to the system.
A couple days later I realized that we could start an educational institution. I had been thinking within the framework of traditional schooling but realized that UnCollege did not have to form to any kind of traditional standard. It could be a framework for self-directed learning.