The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the dollar worth of a college education. Per the article, in recent years the nonprofit College Board estimated that a degreed individual would earn as much as $800,000 more than a non-degreed individual over a lifetime. The article goes on to say that this estimate was based on the 2002 Census Bureau report entitled "The Big Payoff".
Now, a representative of The American Institutes for Research calls all of this into question. The estimates, per this individual do not factor in such things as student loan debt, or breaks in employment. Essentially, no one can predict what someone will earn.
There is no question that every American needs some kind of post secondary education and/or training. However, like with anything else in life, look before you leap. Make sure your student has an idea of what he wants to study, what kind of work his major will lead him to, what kinds of opportunities there will be for this work in the future, and how else future education and/or training might be secured beside the very expensive four (or five or six) year college education route.