My Nephew was weighing last year the three schools that he got into: U of Michigan, Stanford, U of Washington. He asked my advice. I said Washington's the cheapest, since you live in Washington. "But I think I need to leave the state, because I hate it here." Fair enough. "So where can I get the best education?" The best education only comes from within. "But I want to study physics." Ok then go to Stanford, because both schools have Nobel winners but it fuckin snows in April in Michigan and we don't have the Pacific ocean. "That's it?" Yeah.
I didn't go to an elite college. It has not affected my life negatively (obviously I don't know the counterfactual, but it at least hasn't inhibited me from achieving that which I've set out to), and I don't have any debt. I think elite college educations are some of the most overrated products we can buy. "The market" has incentivized me to be collegial, pursue my interests doggedly, and choose a field where I am happy 99% of the time. There are certain fields where I'm sure it matters what school you went to (law, business, e.g.), because you need to meet all the other people who think they're smarter than everyone else. But for the rest of us, no one gives a shit. You can't learn anywhere if you're not committed to learning, and you can learn everywhere if you are. Open a physics textbook and pore over it long enough and you'll get a Stanford level education. My buddy loves to point out that he went to Georgetown for med school, which was at the time the most expensive med school in the nation, and he works along side people who went to school in the Caribbean. If where you went to school matters in your field, you're probably in a field ruled by vanity.