I think the US has stopped valuing education to a large extent. Sure, we still ask for a degree on all kinds of paperwork and jobs. But in reality we don’t value those credentials much. How did we get to this point? I have a (untested) theory.

When looking to hire people, I see a lot of resume’s and almost all of them have some kind of degree. And really, the degree’s don’t matter. Except for a few key schools, candidate without degrees are actually more interesting, since they are taking (or took) a risk to get into the pool.

I can imagine at some point in the past a B.S. or M.S. on a resume indicated a certain level of skill, and some assumptions about what a person would know, or could do. But not anymore. I know many college freshman (as interns or hires) who know or do better than people with 3-4 years more experience than regular interviewee’s with C.S. degrees. Not to name names, but knowing someone went through Drexel’s Co-Op system (which is an amazing system) is a much better indication of young success than a degree from most other colleges. Most degrees don’t indicate any level of skill, or do well to predict workplace success.

The lions share of blame falls to the college/university system themselves. In a hunt for money to build better buildings universities have taken a lot of crap, and put out a lot of crap. It has happened since most colleges are lusting after lucre to become real-estate moguls, by leveraged on sub-market credit of student loans. Teachers don’t get raises, but old buildings get razed then rebuilt. But I digress.

In order to grow, much of higher education have dropped the bar so low, it’s a tripping hazard. In the universal conflict between ‘excellent’ and ‘big’ they chose big, and lowered their standards. Lowering their standards for a short term boost is dragging themselves down, and undermining the trust they use to have in American culture. I think most modern unions suffer from the same problem. The same dynamic has killed consumer product companies, and it can kill whole sectors by destroying trust.

We don’t value higher education, because it has stopped valuing itself.

edited for clarity 2015-01-18