A Degree is a Degree

I find that my TV “watching” lately occurs when I’m in a different room than the TV. Having only the sound and not the pictures has the interesting effect of making me pay attention (or perhaps just imagine) the subtext of the programming and commercials.

Case in point: The University of Phoenix has an ad in heavy rotation in which a young woman sings new lyrics to the tune, “If I only had a brain.” It’s a real attention grabber, but what had me musing for a good fifteen minutes afterward was the line:

a degree is a degree,
you’re gonna want someone like me

Much as been written and said (by Seth Godin and James Altucher to name just a couple) about the value of university degree. But I’ve never heard a university question it. And frankly, that’s what I heard drifting in from the other room: an institute of higher learning turning a degree—something that has, since the 12th century, been a premium product—into a commodity.

Now, perhaps the University of Phoenix’s intent was to communicate that a degree from their school is as valuable as a degree from Stanford. And maybe it is; I don’t know.

The cynic in me thinks that employers just use possession of a degree as a filter for the computer that sorts through piles of resumes.

The skeptic in me thinks that since everyone now has a college degree, it isn’t a distinguishing feature.

The curmudgeon in me visits the campus and looks at the coursework and mutters, <oldmanvoice>”These kids today aren’t learning anything anyway.”</oldmanvoice>

Maybe a degree is a degree. But in the long run selling the idea isn’t going to help either University of Phoenix or Stanford because people are rarely changed by commodities.

I may be reading too much into this commercial, of course. Perhaps an agency copywriter just needed a rhyme.