You make good points, and make me realize I have opinions on the matter too. Full disclosure, dropped out of college in my junior year of undergrad.
I feel that the current philosophy is “send them all to college and let god sort ‘em out.”
I agree that college can enhance personal growth. Being a common path to professionalism, I think it’s also sort of our great integrator in this country. So that’s a really valuable side of college. We learn how to interact with our coworkers and employers, who went through the same system as we did. But it doesn’t necessarily make us produce quality work. There is so much getting by, cheating the system, etc in college.
I won’t get into the technical side of higher education, where you learn how to do FEAs or how to submit a proper scientific paper. Another story.
On the personal development side though, I think there are other (sometimes better) paths than college. A well-structured work environment, military service, or my personal favorite- good ol’ life experience.
From a workforce standpoint, I’ve now worked as a small time employer for about 2 years. In that shortish time, I’ve paid a lot of attention to character differences in people and wondered about the causes of such distinctions. I feel that, even after 4 years in college, many people are vastly unprepared to really excel in their professional lives. Too many excuses, poor schedule management, etc. But then there are young adults in there first or second year of college who really have their shit together. I guess long story short, I see college as something that can improve some, hurt some, or just be a silly badge. But never a silver bullet for success.
It will indeed be interesting to watch college education evolve, and also to see how society decides to approach college down the road.
The blue collar sector is aging out big time, so lots of demand emerging there. And I can’t help but fantasize of an America where it’s ok just to work as a store clerk or a bike mechanic. Perhaps we will find better balance, and stop shoving the wrong people into the debt-inducing rat race that college can sometimes be.