As a ps I'm sorry but I strongly disagree with "further/higher education has become nothing more than an expensive way of not setting yourself apart from your peers". Success is frequently about differentiation both academically and also demonstrated determination and hard work.
I must agree. My Masters has done little for me, and job wise I daresay I'd be pretty much where I am now without it. Difference is I paid my own way through the OU and studied off and on for best part a decade while still working full time on the real world. Not like half the graduate I meet who thought they'd walk out of Uni straight into a cushy number in Media for about £60k.
And I did it because physics interested me, though with dyslexia i was struggling with the maths so switched to metallurgy... which misrepresent much better for maths. Doh!
And am I the only person who doesn't thing success is measured on a payslip? Success for me is being able to get to sleep with a clear conscience, and without fretting about what the next day will bring. I can only drive one car, eat one pie, sit on one crapper at any one time.