Remarking the increase of the number of higher educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, almost entirely paid for by students and parents rather than by the national government, the author examines the paradox in this transformation whence the country’s stagnating economy does not require much more skills than it used to do at the end of the Soviet period. Part of the given explanation for this paradox is that higher education in Kyrgyzstan today is valued almost irrespectively of its potential for the job market ― which is amply suggested by the disappearance of the technical institutes of the Soviet period, and by the over-dominance of degree courses in human and social sciences. The author’s survey suggests that many students cannot imagine a life without having a higher education and becoming a specialist with a diploma. At the same time, the suggestion that corruption is visible at various university levels also provides explanation for the situation. Gender issues are also evoked: For young men, university military training is a way to temporarily avoid conscription and/or to become an officer instead of an enlisted man; for rural girls one way to avoid being pressured to marry and stay in the village is to become a student and move to the city.