There have been quite a few articles published this year suggesting that college really isn’t that valuable. Some of the more interesting ones have pointed out that the generic skills acquired by students are minimal. Other authors suggest that the reason so many people go to college now vs. 50 years ago is because high schools are turning out such poor students that you have to spend an additional four years to get the basic skills the previous generation learned in 12 years of schooling.
Still other arguments suggest that the only value of a college degree is to be part of the club of other college graduates who are likely to be doing the hiring–a self perpetuated cycle that is more of a social club than an issue of actual education.
The thing that is often overlooked about education in general and a four years spent at a university in particular is that everyone has a different college experience. A motivated individual with a library card can obtain a fabulous education at virtually no cost, while a lazy person pursuing at degree costing $100,000 from a prestigious institution may come out just as dumb as they went in. Perhaps the bar for obtaining a college degree is too low, but at some point the educational experience is more about giving students an opportunity than it is about churning out identically educated clones from an educational factory.
Of course this raises the question whether or not college is a cost effective way of providing that opportunity. For smart hard working kids it probably is. They are likely to be on some type of scholarship and know how to position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way. However for average students who aren’t particularly interested in working hard it often isn’t a good investment.