The blogfather Glenn Reynolds--Instapundit--has been blogging about the Higher Education Bubble. He suggests that higher education has an inflated value at this time and is often not worth the huge associated costs. Here are some posts. He makes the distinction between credentialed vs educated. That's an interesting idea. In my academic career it didn't seem to be an issue. I was in the performance end of things where how good you were depended simply on how well you played. But I did notice, more and more, that in a lot of academia, even in music, it was credentials that did make a difference. Some schools were really focused on education, others more on credentialization. As a matter of fact, I studied in the best places you could go as a classical guitarist: the Instituto Musical "Oscar Espla" in Alicante, Spain and the Hochschule fur Musik "Mozarteum" in Salzburg, Austria. But I didn't even bother to pick up the certificates at the end of the courses. They were of virtually no significance. The only thing that mattered was what you got out of it. I was shocked once to meet a guitarist from Tennessee who had a masters degree in performance on guitar but had never even played an etude by Villa-Lobos. I also noticed that one university at which I taught was never, ever going to award an assistant professorship to a guitarist. Wrong instrument. But an oboist was a different story. The 'credential' in that case was: orchestral instrument vs vaguely bohemian and academically suspect instrument. In the composition end of things, credentialism is pretty important. Most composers with academic posts have to be in line with the current fashions. For a long time it was atonal serialism. I'm not sure what it is right now.
Of course, now I see better how the game is played. It is really all about career. Career in the sense of professional employment, benefits, institutional support and tenure. Guaranteeing yourself a secure job. That used to have no appeal to me--but I'm starting to see the pluses! It just doesn't have anything to do with music.