Okay but let's break it down further: I can go to community college for about $100 per credit per quarter around here. If I were to go full 180 credits, I'm looking at $18k for an education. Fuckin' shitballs crazy for community college - when I got my undergrad the rack rate was about $110 for a PAC-10 university. But it's a fair shake less than the rack rate of $270k Harvard gets if you aren't one of their financial aid cases (in fairness to Harvard, they give out a lot of financial aid).
So. What's the value of $270k of Harvard vs. $18k of South Seattle Community College? I would argue it's 100% signaling. Yeah - you're going to have an overall better education from Harvard. But my grandparents got within a year of graduating Harvard and Radcliffe (and then had my uncle, who got into Harvard and committed suicide the first semester there, thereby blackballing my family from Harvard forever) and a Harvard education without a Harvard sheepskin was good enough to make my grandfather a union shop foreman. A Radcliffe education without a Radcliffe sheepskin was enough to make my grandmother a librarian (not head librarian) at a state school. So somewhere between three years and three and a half years at Harvard - even back before the GI bill, when going to college wasn't all that common - was worth about as much as going to college anywhere.
My grandfather's brother finished Harvard. He helped invent LORAN and had a long and illustrious career at EG&G. My grandfather's uncle finished Harvard. He helped invent heart transplants. My grandfather's niece finished Harvard. She's an executive at Morgan Stanley if I recall correctly. But because my grandfather was a semester shy, he learned to operate a lathe.