Thomas Jefferson thought that public higher-education was a necessary part of the security of any free republic. The better educated your electorate is, the less likely they will be taken in en masse by some demagogic tyrant. Knowledge most certainly is the very best cure for ignorance. While you don’t need formal education to attain it, it’s certainly a lot easier to learn for a lot of people when they’re at school than when they’re guiding their own lessons.
The skyrocketing costs of higher education are a consequence of a feedback loop. Government subsidized tuition has made it so that more and more students can attend colleges and universities. Because federal financial aid is guaranteed to schools up front, regardless of the success of students, the schools have a fiscal motives to accept as many students as they physically can and keep them on campus for as long as they are able to do so. The school grows and spends money on upgrading facilities, they need more faculty so they have to hire more expensive professors, then because they’re a larger school they decide they need to pay their higher-ups more in salary. And there is no direct check on how much a school can charge for tuition, so the people who benefit from such things elect to raise it farther and farther. The government’s guaranteeing their revenue, after all. It’s pretty much free money to them. Yaay corruption. The answer isn’t to make schooling free for everyone, and it isn’t to stop subsidizing students’ higher educations. I’m firmly of the belief that the same government that kicked off this cycle should be responsible for regulating it. Especially with state own schools, the government absolutely has jurisdiction to tell a board of visitors or whatever that they need to cap their tuition per student at something much more reasonable, then restrict their rate of growth much more aggressively.