Tom Wood of National Association of Scholars asks if a degree has intrinsic value or if it simply signals some minimal ability.
For decades, critics of the academy have argued that the earnings premium associated with the possession of a college degree does not demonstrate that higher education has intrinsic value. For it to have intrinsic value, they have argued, higher education must impart personal, social, or cognitive skills that raise the productivity in the labor market of the college-educated over the non-college educated.
Wood finds that a degree has intrinsic value.
The view that higher education has intrinsic value, both in terms of earnings generation and the development of marketable skills that improve labor market productivity, has been challenged, but not undermined, by the credentialing/screening theory of higher education. The view that higher education has intrinsic value has survived that challenge in a number of important respects.