The debate on college costs versus return on value was an early topic here on FMMF, but has hit the mainstream the past two years.  The Atlantic has a big series of graphs showing arguments on both sides - I think one caption probably described the situation best:

college works less like an investment than an insurance policy against poverty 

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Older stories on the topic:

[Aug 19, 2011: The Debt Crisis at American Colleges]

[May 20, 2011: Nearly 50% of 2009 College Graduates are Either Jobless, or Working in Jobs that Don't Require a College Degree]

[Jan 18, 2011: Report - First Two Years of College Show Small Academic Gains]

[Dec 21, 2010: Video - CNBC, the Price of Admission - America's College Debt Crisis]

[Dec 14, 2008: WSJ - K-12 Schools Slashing Costs, College Bills Wallup Families]

[Dec 5, 2008: NYT - College May Become Unaffordable for Most in US]