The huge disparity between the meaning of a degree at top universities and the meaning of a degree at third tier state universities, not to mention the gap between the low end of a respectable state university system and for profit diploma mills. makes discussions that dump all degree programs, and all student experiences, into one hopper to be sliced, diced and consomeed by the vegematics of Mr. Thiel and others ridiculous. If you don't want to invest in your education by going to college, by al means don't go; if you don't want to be there, I don't want you in my class. Surely there is a place in the world for mechanics, bricklayers, practical nurses, etc. and al the many other jobs that require skills but not a college education. Taken seriously, a successful college experience results not just in a degree or a job but a whole new set of ways at looking at the world. You can acquire a lot of this by reading on your own, but it requires discipline and I don't believe you can duplicate the experience of being part of a community of scholars without doing it. Many colleges are (in my opinion of an economics writer at https://www.upwork.com
) falling well short of this mark, especially the ones that advertise that you can go to class in pajamas, but there are many reasons for this, some mentioned in thread. These include degeneration of American culture, rise of anti-intellectualism, political devaluation of the institutions from both the left and the right, and a drumbeat that starts in childhood and tells students that the only way to value their life is by how much stuff they have when they die.
I'm sick of seeing Gates, Ellison, and Dell used as arguments against the value of an education. All of them did college level work with computers in high school, all went to top universities and were well placed by interest and ability to exploit business opportunities that were likely once in a lifetime chances. The average student is nothing like Gates.