Of course, as someone that holds a M.Ed. degree, I am somewhat biased, but I think degreas and certification are important in many fields/jobs...
Would you want a doctor operating on you that had no college experience and was just starting out using real patients as guinea pigs?
What about nurses, dentists, etc.? Do you want them to have some experience before starting out in the real world working with real clients/patients?
Ok, medicine is an "easy out"... so let's talk the more traditional "academic" fields.
Business and psychology are two of the most common undergrad degrees. In most cases, I would agree that if you want to work in the business field (customer service, retail, etc.) you CAN do a good job just based on experience...i.e. if you worked in a family business and have had access to all facets of it to learn and grow professionally. But, if you want to go into upper management, or, if you haven't had access to working in many facets of a business, getting a college degree will allow you to at least have EXPOSURE to different fields in business, different stratigies, programs, etc. That can come in helpful later on. Same with accounting, If I want to hire an accountant, I want to know that they can balance a statement, have some tax-related knowledge, and do billing before I hire them. Even just having a degree lets me know that at the very least, they have been exposed to courses on the different types of accounting and various software programs. If they did not have access to that in a college setting, where would they get it?
My undergrad was art, and I can say that it DEFINATELY benefited me. My artwork greatly improved and changed, I learned how to critique artworks in various styles and how to take critique of my own work. I was exposed to artists, styles, and media that I had never known or heard of before. I also learned basics of how to write artist's statements, reviews, and what to expect when dealing with the gallergy system. If I had not gone to college, where would I have come across this wide range of knowledge?
Education was my grad degree and although some folks think "those that can't do, teach"... Let me tell you, teaching is very hard work and actually does require skill, in and of itself, aside from knowing the material. Take any random person and put them in a room with 20 7th grade boys and ask them to teach them a lesson on math, art, etc. and see what happens. Although there is NO replacement for experience, especially when it comes to interacting (and controlling the behavior of) students, knowing techniques, lesson types, how to write a solid lesson plan, and knowing about policy, and legal issues beforehand does really make a difference. If I had not had the experiences I did in college prior to someone dumping me in a classroom with said 20 kids, I wouldn't have known where to start.
Everything I've said so far is about your traditional 4 year degree type college... what about trades and technical work? Plumbers and electricians are also "certified". They are tested via the state (correct me if I'm wrong) to make sure that they actually know what they're doing... I am not sure if they have to have a "degree" per say, but I believe that they are required to be certified. And, I don't think that I'd want someone that wasn't certitied working on my pipes or wiring.
I still think it's kinda funny how everyone wants someone with "experience" but you have to start out from scratch sometime, somewhere. College used to provide you a way to get a "leg up" on the compitition, but now, more and more jobs are calling for graduate degrees as well, so I'm not sure if folks will be able to avoid it much longer... I know that college isn't for everyone and for that reason, I don't like that virtually all jobs now require a bachelor's degree,etc. My uncle is still trying to pass the GRE and get a high school diploma and he's now in his 40's. He is a very smart guy, very people oriented, but school just isn't his thing and I hate that he is limited to "driving" jobs because of his lack of a diploma.
Well, that's my two cents anyway.