Here’s an interview with Richard Vedder. A few of his remarks:
Very generally, for those college students completing college degrees in the last 50 years, college has been typically a very good financial investment. However, remember that roughly one-half of the students entering college do not graduate in a timely manner (up to six years for those pursuing bachelor’s degrees). Also, my research makes me increasingly skeptical that new public investments in higher education have a high pay off. A case can be made, indeed, that we are somewhat “over-invested” in higher education — too many students go who are likely to fail.
Among private schools, the variation in the perceived quality of the school is far greater than the variation in fees. George Washington University, a fine school but not considered a top one, charges as much or more than Harvard. Top schools as ranked by US News and World Report –Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, etc. — charge about the same or only a bit more than schools with a significantly lesser reputation –Boston University, George Washington University, Saint Louis University, Southern Methodist University, etc.
The big difference is between public and private schools, although out-of-state tuition at top public schools (U of Michigan, U of Virginia, Cal-Berkeley or UCLA) often is not dramatically lower than at quality private schools. Again, without good measurement of results, who knows if tuition differentials are justified, too large, or too small?