In the previous post, I discussed what credentials were and how the various uses of credentials depend on each other. Since some people use the university as a source of credentials, the university has credentialing as one of its purposes.

I have previously shown that credentials require teaching and measurement to ensure that a person has what the credentials claim they have. The other purposes of credentials – social recognition and authority – exist only because the person has worked hard to obtain the knowledge the credentials claim he has. If a person lacked the knowledge and it became known that he lacked that knowledge, then he would lose the authority and recognition that he previously had.

If a university places credentialing as its primary purpose, then it would value credentialing more than education. We would try to minimize the education needed to gain the degree. We would try to use methods of measurement that avoid denying knowledge that someone actually has, but be less concerned about the reverse. If the main point of universities are credentials, then universities would supply credentials in exchange for money. Credentials are only useful because of what they get you – they are not good simply because of what they are. This would turn universities into commercial enterprises. The goal of the university would be customer satisfaction.

All of these things would reduce the value of the credential. Not only this, but they are contrary to the main point in having credentials in the first place! The point of having a credential to demonstrate education. Therefore, we would expect that credentials would be valued for the education that they demonstrate. But if universities value credentials in themselves, then they will value credentials instead of education. All of this means that it is not consistent for universities to place primary value in credentials.

There are other problems as well. If credentials are valuable in themselves, then there is pressure to create unnecessary credentials. The university will then be able to offer new and exciting credentials. Whether or not such credentials are really useful is not the point. Like any business, the university will offer what the student will buy. Whether or not the student actually needs the product does not enter the equation at all.

There is yet another problem. If credentials are valuable in themselves, then the supply of credentials should meet the demand for those same credentials. The cost of the courses will be determined by the supply-demand curve! This is completely contrary to the point of education. If a credential is so difficult that few who want it can obtain it, then it ought to remain that difficult. Decreasing the difficulty to increase profit will result in students who do not fully have what the credential claims. The opposite is true as well. An extremely easy credential may be made harder than normal in order to increase profits. But this only results in learning that the credential does not mention.

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