I agree with all that, WT. So what do you think you would do? Would you mention your MFA/MFA candidacy in your letters?
Btw, "wife cheats on husband on a Kansas farm while their daughter experiments with lesbianism," I like those stories, heh.
As with any letter to a stranger that you'd like to embrace professionally, I'd do research to see what they were all about. I'd ask other writers their opinions and if possible see if I knew anyone that has a connection to the person in question. Overall, I wouldn't try to hide the fact. And, of course, it really depends on which program you went to, what kind of connections you made there. If you went to a cash-cow MFA program and were riding on that alone, I could see an agent being a bit incredulous. If you went to Iowa or Irvine, mentioning that might serve you well in conjunction with your kick ass writing and some history of publication. Yes, names matter to people. At the end of the day, it's going to be about marketability, originality and quality of writing.
Miss Snark, as with many other bloggers, makes the faulty assumption that all MFAers are going to be flooding the academic job market and that all MFAers will be contributing to the decline of literature.
Also, I love stories about infidelity and lesbianism in the Bible Belt. It's got the likes of Proulx written all over it. Drop in an intellectual monster and I'll eat the story up whole.