I’m a huge proponent of higher ed. though I must say the real fun doesn’t happen until graduate school. On the flip side, many people, perhaps yourself included, are not well suited to higher education.
Higher ed has become a way, perhaps fabled, to prepare to earn a living, but as you point out, its economic results are somewhat questionable.
I am an educational elitist, in that I believe higher ed. should be much more restrictive in terms of who attends, and that national economies, and in fact, human progress depend on having an elite collection of highly specialized researchers and practitioners.
That’s not to say that those who don’t attend are of less value at all. But higher ed should be reserved for those who “get” the point of advanced education, and it’s not about the money at the end of the process.
Check out http://thetrainingworld.com/university/whyuniversity.htm for my experiences on the value of higher ed. Blake Gossard