This is why I think it's nearly criminal for colleges to be allowed to offer useless degrees. Maybe back in the day when only a select few went to college on a full ride from the bank of mom and dad (and were often told what they were going to study), but in today's world when over half of high school graduates are attending college it's just setting these kids up for failure. When they're the first in their family line to go to higher education, the problem just gets worse. A parent who barely has a GED can't clearly guide their children effectively on what degrees are worthwhile to pursue, and what degrees are garbage.
I'm assuming that you're using the word "useless" to describe degrees that don't significantly increase the earning potential of the graduate, or where few employment opportunities exist except for elite performers. Liberal arts and fine arts are notorious for this. But degrees like that aren't "garbage". They are simply designed to be consumed.
Originally liberal arts programs were developed as a sort of finishing school for sons of the upper crust. The course material was intended to produce a well rounded individual who could hold up his end of an intelligent conversation and perhaps have something to "do" that may or may not make money. He would leave home, get out of the parents' hair during the social season, and come back relatively civilized and ready to check out the debutantes and assume other responsibilities related to managing the family assets, or at least supervising the people hired to do so well enough to make sure the assets weren't being systematically embezzled. At no point was the student expected to actually earn a living. If he (or, later, she) turned out to have some skill as a writer, concert pianist or clothing designer, going into business as a lark was socially acceptable and it was sometimes useful for younger children especially if something bad happened to the family money. But for the most part they were recreational/cultural-enrichment degrees.
There were, and still are, classes of people for whom consuming a 4-year degree for fun doesn't put a dent in that person's bankroll and in fact enhances his or her social appeal. Not one such individual needs to go into debt to do it. A Mustachian, post-FIRE, might consume a recreational degree in lieu of travel or other luxuries, if the 'stache is big enough to generate the cash flow. It's a badass thing to do.
A person who has a burning desire for a recreational degree, but who is unable to get through school without debt due to lack of family resources, may be just the kind of statistical outlier who could make a living in the field if he or she has enough skill, talent, intelligence, and work ethic to qualify for one of the few available jobs. But for the rest of the people who desire a recreational degree, the path to it is through the marketable degrees. A person should get that first, and then get to a position of financial stability, possibly FI, from which it becomes possible to consume some heart-feeding luxury. For some people it's travel or early retirement. For others, it might be a recreational degree.
Besides recreational degrees, there's also an entire category of degrees that lead to jobs that don't pay much. Early childhood education is an example. People who make a living in those fields are generally put through school by their parents. Afterwards, if they are frugal, the mediocre income that goes with working in an art gallery or teaching preschoolers is something they can get by on since they don't have crippling debt. There may be additional economic outpatient care from the parents. We can call these "privilege" degrees.
I think there are three key problems.
The first problem, I think, is that not enough people are able to distinguish between recreational degrees, privilege degrees, and professional degrees that are credentials that can easily be turned into money because they certify the bearer can do something useful for other people. Only the latter are worth going into debt for.
The second problem is that there's an education-industrial complex that's grown up around the recreational degrees and to a lesser extent the privilege degrees. Basically, a whole bunch of people who were the first in their families to go to university got recreational degrees. Since they were smart, they were able to go all the way through to the doctorate level and then turn around and teach. That's great for those individuals, but it created an economy that rewarded people for staying
in the ivory tower. To do that, and to fund their own research and publications, they need crop after crop of bright-eyed young students in order to justify their existence. Selling their services to the semiliterate, unprepared graduates of public high schools who do not have the ability to form a complete sentence but who make it in anyway due to grade inflation and athletic prowess doesn't justify the existence of an entire department. It has to be possible to major
in that area of study. And so the problem expands.
The third problem is that it's far too easy to borrow money for recreational and privilege degrees.