1. Decreasing Value of University Degrees
(and other academic certifications)

10+ Disruptive Factors Transforming the World of Education and Learning — Consequences, Opportunities, Tools

Robin Good
Content Curation Official Guide
8 min readJul 22, 2016


In the previous chapter I have given you an overall perspective of the reasons why I think that the world of education and learning is being deeply transformed by a number of different factors, and how curation is playing a huge catalytic and operational role in this transformation.

Now, I will direct my focus to each one of the 20 and more factors that are directly affecting this revolutionary set of transformations while asking myself these specific questions:

  • What is this change about?
  • What is bringing it?
  • What consequences and opportunities is this change giving way to
  • Which are the tools that enable this change?

Why university degrees are losing their value

The value of traditional CVs and resumes is rapidly fading as the value of educational certifications and degrees in the workplace is gradually diminishing.”
(Source: Epic 2020)

The overall value of university and college degrees are decreasing because:

  • degrees are no longer a guarantee of a getting a job
  • degrees are no longer a guarantee of a better pay
  • there is a growing number of alternative, free or low-cost learning paths that can be taken to learn new skills and earn oneself a living
  • information learned during college study is not always useful to actual work demands
  • many college/university degree programs offer little or no exposure to actual work practices
  • time (and money) is sacrificed to obtain an academic certification which could be instead used to learn on-the-job or to develop one’s own business
  • lots of time is needed to pay back loans obtained to get such degrees and certifications
  • there is a fast growing number of paid jobs and activities that do not require a university degree.

Outside of traditional “professionals” as doctors and engineers, companies recruiting new people are looking more for “skills and experience” than for degrees and certificates.

Fact: (in the US) 17 million college graduates have jobs that do not require a college degree.

That’s “over 30 percent of the working college graduates in the U.S.

The diploma serves as a screening device that allows businesses to narrow down the applicant pool quickly and almost without cost to the employer, but with a huge financial cost to the individual earning the diploma (often at least $100,000), and to society at large in the form of public subsidies.”
(Source: InsidehigherEd)

“…diplomas are a highly expensive and inefficient screening device used by employers who are afraid to test potential employee skills…”
(Source: InsideHigherEd)

Apparently, it’s the method that doesn’t work anymore. Certifications and diplomas prove little about a person skills and abilities in the real world.

Today, the job marketplace requires people who can “think”. People who can come up with creative solutions to unexpected problems, people who are prepared to be continuously challenged by new discoveries and innovations but who can discern which ones are relevant and immediately useful for their goals, and people who can recognize patterns and relationships across industries and disciplines to help them find new and better ways to achieve their objectives.

Curation offers a practical and immediately usable approach to help new learners train themselves in developing and mastering such very skills.

Last but not least, it should be also noted that an increasing number of alternatives to academic-based traditional certification systems are emerging.

These non-academic new certification systems have the power to dent into universities dearest asset: the lock between content being taught and the test/assessments that are supposed to certify a student competence on it.

These alternative certification systems are likely to provide alternative means for many individuals to demonstrate and be valued for their skills without a need to attend academic courses, to pay expensive tuition fees, to purchase new textbooks, and to pay for exam/certification costs.

“…the piles of student loans are due largely to the fact that the cost of a college degree has been going up much faster than people’s incomes.

And that has raised the specter that we might be living through a “higher-education bubble,” in which Americans are irrationally borrowing money to spend more on college than it’s actually worth.

We’ve just endured two huge bubbles, which sent the value of stocks and then homes to ridiculous levels, so the theory isn’t implausible.

Of course, a college-education bubble wouldn’t look exactly like a typical asset bubble, because you can’t flip a college degree the way you can flip a stock, or even a home.

But what bubble believers are really saying is that young people today are radically overestimating the economic value of going to college, and that many of them would be better off doing something else with their time and money.”

Source: New Yorker (2011)

Check also: What’s a Diploma Worth

“Much of the argument for formal education rests on statistics indicating that people with college and graduate degrees earn more.

But those statistics … suffer an important and rarely heeded bias:

“The problem is that this statistic is based on long-term data, gathered from a period of moderate loan debt, easy employability, and annual increases in the value of a college degree. These conditions have been the case for college grads for decades. Given the dramatically changed circumstances grads today face, we already know that the trends for debt, employability, and the value of a degree have all degraded, and we cannot assume the trend toward greater lifetime earnings will hold true for the current generation.

This is a critical omission from media coverage. The fact is we do not know. There’s absolutely no guarantee it will hold true.”

Brain Pickings, 2013

The skills which employers need can be developed in many ways,

‘There is strong evidence that students with work experience of some description are now more likely to get a job and will be more successful once in work. This is why many employers are increasingly investing in internship and work experience programmes.’

And although this has always been the case with certain sectors, the economic crisis has inevitably had an impact on the situation — albeit in a way which neither employees nor employers could have predicted.

The recession has shown many employers that a school leaver with experience can add just as much, if not more, than a graduate with a degree,’….

Metro (2014)

Sal Khan shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.


  • Credential-driven students may be more disengaged than those who can afford to attend college for personal enrichment.
    (David F. Labaree, How to Succeed in School without Really Learning: The Credentials Race in American Education, Yale University Press (1997), pages 32, 50, 259.)
  • Students look for alternative routes to find work and become sustainable.
  • Traditional colleges and universities gradually lose appeal and value.
  • College education is not anymore the best and most effective path to develop one’s own talents and to find a job (unless you want to be a doctor, architect, engineer, etc.).
  • Explosion in the number of online available courses offered outside academic institutions and on subjects typically not offered by these institutions.
  • These transformations are taking place at a much faster rate than academic institutions own traditional change-pace.


  • Universities and other academic institutions start curating educational resources for one or more specific areas of interest / language / region / by creating and maintaining highly qualified “learning paths”, and providing assistance, specialized training and resources, to those in specific need of it.
  • Growing interest for vocational jobs and for learning skills normally outside the traditional academic offerings as a consequence of the gradual loss of value of university degrees and their increasing costs.
  • More opportunities for learners to obtain reliable, affordable and trusted certification, outside of academia, for their abilities and skills.
  • New huge demand for learning skills outside the traditional curricula has not yet been met by enough reliable sources to help them evaluate and select these many alternative offerings.
  • Academic institutions can better manage their future sustainability by rapidly upgrading their role and function to where they could still provide a valuable and in-demand service to both society and individuals. Here a few simple ideas.

Move from teaching and certifying to:

  • a) curating talent — breed new talent by providing motivated learners with the ideal conditions to study, research and develop new ideas.
  • b) curating educational resources for a specific area of interest / language / region / by creating and maintaining highly qualified “learning paths”, and providing assistance, specialized training and resources, to those in specific need of it.
  • c) curating human guides, training future curators — by cultivating and supporting the development of skilled information-guides and coaches that possess the skills of a curator and of a great story-teller.


Work Opportunities without a Diploma
(an organized list of hundreds of income-earning activities that do not require having a university degree)

Credentialism and Education Inflation — Wikipedia
In Western society, there have been increasing requirements for formal qualifications or certification for jobs, a process called credentialism or professionalization. This process has, in turn, led to credential inflation (also known as credential creep, academic inflation or degree inflation), the process of inflation of the minimum credentials required for a given job and the simultaneous devaluation of the value of diplomas and degrees.”

The Diploma Vanishing Value — Wall Street Journal
Students who pick their major based solely on postgraduation salaries, as opposed to passion for a field, will in all likelihood struggle in both school and career. ... They will go deep into debt without ever knowing that they pursued a degree without a chance at a career or a job to pay off their loans.”

Is a College Degree Worth It in 2016? — The Hustle
The value of a college degree continues to be reexamined. Companies are putting more focus on hiring candidates with real-world experiences. More affordable alternatives to college are now available and the internet has allowed anyone to “get educated” from the comfort of their own home.

Not What It Used To Be-The Economist
American universities represent declining value for money to their students.

Thank you for reading.

I am Robin Good, an independent author / publisher with a terminal addiction: help others effectively communicate, learn and market their ideas by exploring new ethical venues, innovative strategies and uncharted territories outside the mainstream.

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Robin Good
Content Curation Official Guide

Focus on curation and on creating monetizable value by organizing existing information: https://robingood.substack.com - https://curationmonetized.substack.com