I concur with the majority of Incorrect's post.
I believe that the main problem we are seeing in Education is not so much that Education has become a business, but that (as Incorrect alluded to) a college education does not mean as much to an employer as it did as short as a generation ago.
The reason for this is the high High School graduation rates as compared to generations past over which we spend so much time patting our own collective back. The difficulty with that is, as more schools are encouraging (read: pushing) kids to remain in High School until they graduate, the criteria that need to be met for High School graduation have been reduced to little more than rudimentary reading ability.
The necessary result of that is that even the smartest kids, excepting the exceptionally intelligent, are generally dumber, even given that they have graduated High School. The reason for this is because the schools are now forced to slow things down to make sure all of the kids who are still openly drooling, at the age of seventeen, can keep up with the rest of the class. Furthermore, the schools also spend the majority of the year teaching in prepartion for standardized testing, and even your upper-level classes spend the bulk of the year preparing students for the SAT's or ACT's.
In that sense, not only has the quality of education (again, even for an above-average student) been reduced, but also, kids emerge from High School with essentially the same skill/ability/knowledge set as any other kid in the entire country.
Essentially, education at the Public School level has become an affair of volume, graduate as many kids as possible, make sure we keep our funding, high standardized test scores, make sure we keep that funding...where it used to be an affair of quality. At one time, you had to be reasonably intelligent to graduate High School, (just ask any teacher that has been around for 30+ years) but now all you really have to do is show up. In many schools, you're not allowed to fail anyone, except for the reason of truancy, and even then, they do everything they can to force the kids to go.
Another problem is the concept of continuing education and Good-Enough-Degrees, (GED's, actually stands for Graduation Equivalency Degree), I have seen a GED test as they were administered at a college I attended (in the library) and one was actually left on the table. Let me assure you, if that is the equivalent of graduating, I wasted about ten years of my life as I could have passed that motherfucker at the age of eight! Fuck, I was a potential college student at eight years old.
I do not necessarily believe that colleges are strictly in it for the money, as there are still any number of very low cost schools. I'm not only talking about on-line schools, but there are many physical schools were the tuition costs are more than reasonable. The problem you run into is that there are so many kids graduating High School now, I believe around 85%, that a Degree is basically needed (in lieu of work experience) just to prove that you are not a complete dumbass! To that extent, both Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees have been undervalued compared to the clout they used to carry, particularly Bachelor's Degrees as Associate's Degree's have often been looked at in the sense of, "Oh, so you graduated High School twice!"
In any case, College Courses must also be easier, in most colleges, because the average quality of student has decreased as the vast majority of students qualify to go to college! This is particularly true with Community Colleges, and from there, it's easy to transfer credits regardless of what you did in High School. The problem that even Community Colleges have is that the average student goes into C.C. not knowing what he/she would have known as little as a generation ago!
We opened up Composition 101 with a little R&J when I was in college. I asked the professor, after class, "Why are we doing this? We did Romeo & Juliet in High School!"
His reply, "No, SOME of you may have opened the book and read the words, but you did not understand the book. You memorized what happened and that was about the extent of it. You seem smart enough, but do you think half of the kids in this class could even accurately define, 'theme?' The first year of college is essentially remedial, I mean, it's not because it's stuff you SHOULD have learned in the first place, but many did not. You will find that in all of your classes, I'm afraid."
Anyway, we are implementing a social program that rewards quantity over quality, plain and simple. As a necessary result, the value of all of the degrees (except, perhaps, Doctorates) is reduced because there is a reduction in what is needed to obtain said degree.
The other problem is that you have lost people that would have basically been forced into menial physical labor jobs, which would have satisfied those people perfectly, but now college graduates (who think they are above it because they got an Associate's Degree, as if that's worth a shit) think they should walk into a coal mine as a Superintendent and will accept no less, or say, "That's not what I spent TWO YEARS in school for!" In some cases, even in this economy, you have labor jobs that are going unfilled. An unwillingness to relocate also has something to do with that part, but not all of it.
"Love is the gravity of the Soul" - Abstract -/-/1988 - 3/11/2013 R.I.P