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Explaining Credentialism in Higher Education Using Robert Park and Karl Marx

Megan Imka
Ohio Northern University

Credentialism is an increasingly popular phenomenon in today’s society. The effects are seen most of all in the development and achievements of today’s higher educational system. Students are feeling more stress and pressure than ever before to attend school beyond college and to obtain a graduate degree. With increasing requirements, and a PhD the current highest degree one can earn, this phenomenon raises the question that asks where can society go from here. How much higher can society raise the bar, and how will this affect those competing in the higher educational system. With the current demands and consistent goal-oriented competition, it can be argued that due to credentialism, education has lost some of its value. For students today, the value of learning has taken a back seat to the more importantly stressed idea of collecting as many credentials as possible. Therefore, credentialism in higher education is a relevant and important phenomenon to analyze and address using social theory. This paper traces a brief history of the development of credentialism, specifically in education, and explains this phenomenon through the theories of two social theorists, Karl Marx and Robert Ezra Park. Both theories address how credentialism in higher education develops, how it decreases the value of learning, and the possible solutions that theoretically, society may one day follow.

North Central Sociological Association; Dearborn, MI
Psychology and Sociology