Between 1999 and 2011, student loan debt increased 511%. College graduate unemployment is a little under 9%. The largest single employment sector in the US economy is retail sales. The largest sector of employment growth in the last two years is in temporary, low-skilled work.
The knowledge-based and expertise-based legitimations of college education are long dead. College degrees as credentials for entry into information-processing jobs are nearly dead. There is some reason to think college education provides relevant training that can be useful in various careers -- largely indirectly, through the development of "hidden curriculum" skills and attributes like perseverance, rule-following, mastering encrypted forms of communication like academic prose, etc. But these careers have lost a lot of their prestige and power, and are losing stability and security rapidly.
Under these conditions, getting a college education has to appear much less like a shrewd investment, and more like an expensive gamble. The basic economic function of colleges and universities -- non-profit and "public" as well as private and for-profit -- is to transfer wealth from poor laboring classes to rich capitalists who leech from the system at every pore. (Contemporary capitalism is called by several colorful names: disaster capitalism, predatory capitalism, casino capitalism. I think I like parasite capitalism.)
At some point, I imagine, the economic behavior of people will change to reflect this, and people will stop going to college. I fantasize how people might hold higher education to account for this economic arrangement, and for what could be called fraud.
What is my moral responsibility for this, as a college faculty member, given that I benefit (though modestly, especially compared to parasite capitalists)? Should I discourage people from going to college, despite the potential ramifications to my gainful employment? Should I try to show this perspective to current students, despite the potential ramifications to the teacher-student relationship? Can I "teach" a class, without excessive irony, after I have exposed this arrangement?