Accessibility and Differentiation

In their most basic form, degrees are pieces of paper that get you through a door.  A hall pass is a piece of paper that gets you through a door.  A big-time discussion at the dinner table between some of my best academic friends pertained to the significant reduction in MBA enrollments across the country and the reasons for the dilution of their effectiveness in the marketplace.  A lot of theories can be thrown around, but I personally believe looking at corporate marketing practices could provide significant insight, as could motivations the average MBA student has for getting the advanced degree–It’s about differentiation of a brand or product.

A few years ago, the same kind of discussions revealed a problem common in today’s society that had been plaguing my friends in their own classrooms:  Entitlement.  Students were posing the question “What are you going to do for ME?” every day, as if it was their (or the institution’s) responsibility for setting them apart from the rest of the labor force so they could land the 6-figure job.  It seems as though a pretty sharp turn has been made since that discussion first took place.  Is it possible that this decline in perceived value of an advanced degree is really companies giving the middle finger to those self-centered students who place the burden of their own differentiation on the shoulders of the institutions those corporations have trusted relationships with?

The labor market is really no different than a consumer market:  Attention and time are finite resources that command premium prices.  Prospective employees can get their foot in the door, but they’re going to need three or more dimensions if they want to stay in the building.