I graduated from a state university over 20 years ago. I think I got a good education and, at the time, the tuition and fees were reasonable (at least when I started), although it was difficult to get into classes required for graduation in your major. Had I not spent a year in England on exchange, I would have likely been on the five year plan.
The school, like all schools (state school and private), was starting to increase tuition costs. I'm glad I don't have kids since, looking at what tuition costs are, I do not think I could send them to university, even if they were able to pay half.
The rule in my house was, I had to put away at least 10% from any jobs I had into my college account. I decided on a plan of thirds, as it was easier--one third of my pay into my college account, one third into my personal savings account, and one third was for me to spend how I liked. Summers and spring breaks, I worked. I wondered who these students who could go off on spring break trips were. I had my fun--maybe too much of it at times--but I also had jobs while I went to school. I got stipends at the school paper. I worked as a janitor in the dining commons. I worked in the student store. And during vacations I got jobs in retail in the mall near where I lived. Granted, I probably could have gone on a spring break trip with money I saved, but it just didn't occur to me. When I was in England, however, I traveled all over the place since it would have been stupid not to. In fact, in England I felt like a proper student since I couldn't get a job there, being a foreigner and all. It was kind of nice.
I did not graduate and get my dream job. I graduated into a recession--I got laid off, then got a job as a receptionist. I didn't get a job where I was paid decently until I moved overseas. Had it not been for that job, I would not have been able to buy my place (or learn to speak Japanese).
That's not why I went to college, though. I went because I really did want to learn about the world and to delve more deeply into my chosen field of study. But university was always touted as the way to get a good job, something you had to do in order to either get a good job or advance in your job, and that you needed it to make decent money.
Now, in my neck of the woods, you do need a bachelor's degree in order to get a secretarial job, which is ridiculous. But I think that's because the market is flooded with college graduates, and employers can now afford to be choosy. With the economy the way it is, and with people looking at the jobs you're expected to have an undergraduate degree for, a lot of people are wondering if it's worth it.
I did go on to get my master's degree--mainly because my employer paid for it. I figured it would be a wasted opportunity to not do that. But the degree was mainly for me to advance in my job (it was not in the same field as my undergraduate), not because I loved the subject matter at hand. If I felt like I could do well without the degree (and I didn't have the tuition reimbursement), I wouldn't have bothered, honestly.
I really wish there were more vocational training opportunities (not for-profit "universities" that charge more than my university and push their students into loans with exorbitant rates) that prepared people for good jobs. I think wanting training for a good job is smart, and I don't think university is for everyone. (I also think that if you want to be able to train for a specific job and learn for the love of learning, you should have the opportunity to do so. I don't think the two are or should be mutually exclusive.) What I don't think is smart is the idea that job applicants for almost any job have at least a bachelor's degree. Unless the job itself requires knowledge of a certain field, that's silly.
I did not go on to work in the field that my major was in. That's okay with me--I don't regret my degree at all. But I think a lot of people are urged to go to university and study certain things because it will get them a good job. And I'm skeptical of that. I really wish there were good opportunities for people to get the training they need for good jobs. Right now, I don't think there are a lot of options for that and so people are doing what they think will get them the best chance for good opportunities.
What do you all think? Is college worth it? Do we need to revisit the idea what a college education can do for us?