Suzanne Lucas, who blogs as Evil HR Lady, has written a thought-provoking article on why most managers need degrees.
I agree that employers place a huge amount of emphasis on degrees and so it makes sense to get one. I also agree that some specialized and licensed positions logically require a degree.
It is more difficult, however, to conclude that a degree is needed for the successful performance of most management jobs. Certainly some level of education is needed but street smarts and experience can quickly balance things out. Many degree requirements simply serve as a quick and dirty way to determine if the candidate has writing and research skills. Some of the most competent people I've known in my career do not have college degrees.
Charles Murray is onto something with his proposal that we switch from emphasizing degrees and instead consider establishing more apprenticeships in particular subjects.
It may be wrong to consider degrees strictly as a career booster. I regard a large part of my college experience as more of an intellectually enriching experience. Do you need to have studied Shakespeare to do most jobs? No. But an appreciation of Shakespeare adds a lot to your general wisdom and to an appreciation of life. It may help to think of college as more of a place to pursue knowledge - whether it be French Literature or History of Mexico - and less of a trade school.