As Universities Falter, Grifters Prosper

Young men are drifting toward the wrong alternatives to four-year degrees.

Patrick Bet-David is no wallflower. He says what he means, and he appears to mean what he says. A major critic of the education system, he wants you to know that college is the biggest scam in America. He asks, why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that will, in all likelihood, result in very little reward? Instead, the Iranian-American author and entrepreneur has a much cheaper alternative: Valuetainment University.

For the uninitiated, Valuetainment is a media and production company, not an actual college. According to its website, it is “the leading source for information, education and entertainment centered on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and capitalism.” Bet-David, a wearer of sharp suits, is the head of Valuetainment.

Bet-David’s “university” doesn’t offer degrees, but it does offer a course by an ex-mob boss.Allegedly worth a staggering $450 million, Bet-David is a truly impressive man. After completing his high-school education, he joined the U.S. Army and dedicated three years of his life to the 101st Airborne Division. After bravely representing his country, he embarked on a professional journey, initially working for Morgan Stanley and later for Transamerica Corporation.

Fast-forward to the present day, and he has emerged as a highly accomplished, well-respected entrepreneur. (Full disclosure: I wrote an article for his website in 2022.)

This brings us back to his “university”—or should I say, his lucrative side hustle. After all, by definition, a university is “an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees.” Bet-David’s “university,” by contrast, doesn’t offer undergraduate or postgraduate degrees, but it does offer a course by Michael Franzese, an ex-mob boss who now offers business and life advice. Valuetainment University also offers courses in public speaking and business strategy—all this for just $99 per month.

A bargain some might say. Those people, I suggest, are both naive and wrong. To be clear, this is not an attack on Bet-David, who is a businessman and an excellent one at that. He recognizes that there are thousands of people out there—most of them disgruntled, disillusioned young men—who want to be just like him: rich, successful, and respected.

But let’s not forget that the whole purpose of attending a university is to emerge with a qualification that makes you more employable. A “qualification” from Bet-David’s “university” probably won’t cut it, largely because what he is offering is not accredited and not accepted by most degree-requiring employers.

Spoiler alert: Taking a course from Professor Franzese won’t get you a job. Not with a law-abiding entity, anyway.

Of course, Bet-David isn’t the only person running educational establishments of questionable legitimacy. Andrew Tate, the most Googled man in the world, runs Hustlers University, where students can take courses in copywriting and e-commerce. In other words, they can pay to learn stuff you can teach yourself. Meanwhile, Tom Bilyeu’s Impact Theory University offers mindset and business “masterclasses”—again, all for just $99 per month.

Fake universities are popular because traditional universities have failed. It’s important to note that one of the reasons these “universities” appear to be so popular is that traditional universities have failed. Well-established places of higher learning have become breeding grounds for antipathy towards men, especially white men, otherwise known as “colonialists.” They have poured, and continue to pour, inordinate amounts of gasoline on the crisis of masculinity sweeping the Western world. Misogyny is rightly frowned upon in contemporary society, and a number of high-profile male academics have been accused of promoting it. But, I ask, what about misandry? It’s everywhere, yet the female academics promoting it aren’t met with the same levels of backlash.

If you doubt this, let me point you in the direction of Suzanna Danuta Walters, director of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Northeastern University. In 2019, incredibly, she penned a Washington Post op-ed asking the absurd question, “Why can’t we hate men?” She argued that it was (and, one assumes, still is) entirely “logical to hate men.” She also suggested that women who insist they don’t hate men are merely “would-be feminists.”

In this misandrist rant disguised as a provocative op-ed, Walters rubbished the idea that some men are staunchly committed to female equality. She urged these men never to run for office—“Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power,” she ordered, before adding, “please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you.”

Remember, this is a person in a position of real authority, who shares her views with young, impressionable students on a regular basis. Walters is not an outlier. It has become routine to read op-eds and peer-reviewed papers bashing men. There are even whole courses dedicated to bashing men—particularly white men.

It’s important to remember that academia gave rise to the toxic term “toxic masculinity.” For traditional universities to win back the trust of men, cultural change will be necessary. It is essential that colleges cease collectively demonizing men, many of whom are already struggling to make their way in the world. It is imperative that they focus instead on nurturing positive male role models. Institutions of higher education should serve as environments where young men can mature, develop, and feel wanted, Until this occurs, more and more young men will turn to fringe figures like Tate, Bilyeu, and Bet-David.

Yes, such men have money, but they are not credible. Not as educators, anyway. Tate and his brother were recently accused of human trafficking. Bilyeu can be credibly described as a disingenuous grifter who will do whatever is needed to help gullible people part with their cash. Bet-David is no con-man, but what he’s offering—a hodgepodge of Tony Robbins-like talks, stern-faced lectures, and stuff you can easily find with a quick Google search—is no match for a decent, accredited education from a reputable establishment.

For traditional universities to win back the trust of men, cultural change will be necessary.Yet, even if traditional third-level education is not for you, better alternatives to what Bet-David and the others are offering exist.

Take community colleges, for example, which should be viewed as affordable alternatives to the more traditional model. In comparison to four-year universities, community colleges are generally more cost-effective and offer students the opportunity to obtain credentials in a shorter timeframe. While a bachelor’s degree typically necessitates four years of study, students can acquire an associate’s degree in two.

Vocational programs and trade schools present viable alternatives, as well. These programs generally have lower costs compared to two- or four-year degree programs, and they concentrate on equipping students with skills for specific careers, such as auto mechanics, electrical line work, and welding.

If the idea of learning how to fix an engine in a Honda Civic or wire a house doesn’t appeal to you, why not consider an entrepreneurially oriented, certificate-based program? This can be a suitable choice for individuals looking to start a business or pursue a particular career path, and some programs can be finished in just a few months or weeks. For instance, the Wharton School of Business provides an entrepreneurship specialization consisting of five four-week courses. Each course costs $79 per month—$20 less than Bet-David’s and Bilyeu’s courses. Importantly, Wharton is recognized by potential employers and investors as a real academic entity.

It is unquestionably true that colleges have been treating men badly in recent years. But too many young males are throwing away their cash on nonsense in response. Time and money are precious. One job of the education establishment should be to help young people invest both wisely.

John Mac Ghlionn is a psychosocial researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and the Spectator (U.S.). He covers psychology and social relations and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.