If somebody graduated university by attending free online classes, the same classes taught by Harvard University physically on campus, we would still discount that graduate's education compared to a 'real' Harvard graduate who attended lectures physically on campus. We don't believe those free online classes were of the same education quality as the one taught physically. Why? The issue is that how much humans value things is dependant upon how difficult it was to achieve it. This is the case for both effort and resources (money) spent.
The fact is, we already have a form of extremely cheap tertiary level education - and it's digital. Online education has proliferated and it's ridiculously cheap - and there lies the problem.
It's too cheap that we don't value it.
Because online education is so cheap and accessible, drop-out rates are extremely high - the people attending don't have the motivation to complete it. But what if we made it harder to achieve and get into online education? The perceived value would not only rise, but the motivation to stick with it may increase as well?
The hazing of fraternities and sororities is testimony to this fact - psychologists have done extensive studies on the case. The harder it is for somebody to achieve or access something (the more they struggle), the more then will appreciate and stick with what they've achieved.
Easy come, easy go.
We need to change the perception of value of alternative forms of education - particularly digital education.