Signalling doesn’t really work IMO. Who is he signalling too? Other criminals? Customers? Why do they care? It seems if this is what it is the economy is deeply inefficient. 40% of the population needs 4 years of college to ‘signal’? So if there was some way to pick up this signal without college huge profits would await.
I suspect there’s two aspects that make college valuable:
1. Narrative creation – humans work by creating and sharing fictional narratives. College is a lot of practice at that which is a skill that carries over into business of many types.
2. Burns off immaturity. I suspect a big portion of the benefit of schooling is babysitting. It keeps kids out of the way of adults (which our economy couldn’t function otherwise…imagine if *every* day was take your kid to work day). By keeping immaturity somewhat walled off until kids grow out of it, schools prevent them from damaging their lives.
2.1 This may be somewhat related but workplaces are very, very stable. If you are changing tires at 18 there’s enough tires in the world that you can still be doing it at 59. Perhaps by starting work at a younger age, it is a bit too easy to fall into stability. School forces you to someday break things up. No matter how good you are at school you’re going to have to leave that stability upon graduation which will land you somewhere else which you’ll have to figure out. That flexibility may be more valuable than premature stability.