I would have to echo jtobin's comments, and add my own. Are the high end culinary programs like CIA, LCB and J&W mighty expensive? Yes.
Do they give you a bit of gravitas when applying for a job at a place like Le Bernardin or Lola Bistro? Absolutely.
I worked under a chef, recently, who is a graduate of the CIA and, while it is not a terrible place to work, he is currently executive chef at a hot foods department at a local grocery. He is a wonderful person to work for, produces great food and seems to be relatively content where he is in his career. His own choices, however, determined where his career took him, and I think that is the case with any chef.
Work, cooking experience, and a little luck determines where you go with your career, not necessarily which school is on your diploma.
Bourdaine's article was written, I believe around the same time as Kitchen Confidential, so it does have a feeling of bitterness and anger which his book also has. I'm not saying that what Bourdaine has said about the culinary world - the long hours, constant stress and meager pay - isn't true, but that perhaps he is missing out on what good there is in the profession.
As a future culinary student, I would hope to God that there is more in my future than working a 12 hour shift at a turn and burn operation for $9.00 an hour. If there isn't maybe I should reconsider what I'm doing. . . . .