College has changed from 'The halls of higher learning' to the thing that every American HS school does because that is what you do to get ahead in life.
The irony being that because every high school student does it, they cannot, by definition, get ahead, because "ahead" is inherently relative.
One major problem is that our public K-12 system has completely failed to keep up with the times. Instead of teaching useful skills, it continues to teach the same things it did before, and at approximately the same pace. We still spend roughly an entire year teaching multiplication even though computers have advanced civilization to the point that no human being has needed to do multiplication in their heads or on paper for decades. Why are we wasting all that time? Spend a single 6-week period on the basics, explain what it means, how it is useful, then move on.
And we delay all of the interesting stuff so that by the time the kids are exposed to it, their brains are too hard-wired to learn it effectively. We should start teaching at least the basic fundamentals of algebra by first or second grade. Those of us who grew up learning programming at a young age know that this is doable. I remember getting into algebra and saying, "Oh. This is easy. I've been doing this for more than half a decade." If everyone had been given the opportunity to learn those concepts earlier (as opposed to just the few of us who taught ourselves how to program in first grade), high school could have been closer to what college is, and college wouldn't be necessary for most people.
Instead, we squander the first 13 years of education, wasting most of them on archaic and antiquated learning that does not serve students well, while delaying all of the interesting and fun stuff until college. Is it any wonder, then, that everyone wants to go to college, or that many people spend years grazing from major to major, exploring all of the possibilities denied to them in their pre-college years?