Seeing the degree is a shortcut to verifying that the basic level of knowledge in the applicant's major has been satisfied. The testing necessary to verify that independently (and redundantly - one for each company being applied to) seems prohibitive.
For HR directors, purchasing managers, corporate controllers, practice managers, financial advisors, and jobs like that? Yes, I think you can devise filters for anything colleges filter for that would be both more effective and far cheaper than college.
Eventually I don't see why not but I don't think it's an easy thing to do nor do I know how to do it for a physics R&D type of position. Obviously education isn't the only criteria people use today anyway (I can't tell you how many CS grads I've interviewed who really struggled or flat out didn't know a lot about CS).
It's an age-old problem: how do tell if someone can do what you need them to do without wasting your time and money? As the skill and knowledge requirements go up this becomes harder and harder to do, with or without the degree shortcut.
But I don't need to - smarter people already did the work for me. This approach is already practiced (mini scale I believe) in our industry.