I watched a debate on PBS with Charles Murray (trying to find a link), in which he argued that very thing. Most college degrees (bachelors) are basically worthless, and the time and money would be much better spent on direct occupationally related trade degree programs.
One thing it does do is weed out some riff raff, which is harder to do now without putting yourself at risk for lawsuits.
Which is not to say we’re not wasting a lot of people’s time, just that there are some good reasons for it. Even if they are artificial ones we’ve created.