Starting with Arrow's hypothesis that higher education is a filter, the paper studies three alternative filter-designs. These designs can be attributed to the higher education systems of three different countries: In the U.S., competition between schools not only leads to a stable and stratified hierarchy of schools but also validates the degrees issued by these schools. In France, the state deliberately sets and validates a hierarchy of schools acting as a monitor and at the same time as an employer of high potentials. In spite of an otherwise egalitarian regulatory environment, in Germany professors still have incentives to economize on individual reputation. Due to the rather strong property rights of German professors, their doctoral students contribute to this reputation. The incentive to employ productive doctoral students may validate the doctoral degree as a signal for talent. A closer look at the educational paths of topmanagers in the U.S., France, and Germany reveals results which are consistent with the theoretical conjectures.