In the past, before these subsidies that distorted the pricing so horrendously, most students had to study something that brought real value. While a few dicked around in an abstract, rather useless subject like philosophy, most students studied science, engineering, mathematics, law, and medicine. These are the sorts of subjects that allow the students to, in the future, provide real value to society.
That's arguable. In our "anything that can be outsourced should be" culture, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees are no longer guarantees of adding economic value, either. And not everybody is good at those subjects. In my experience as a college educator, forcing students to dedicate four years of their lives to a a subject that they hate just because it theoretically pays better after graduation is self-defeating. You end up with students that don't really want to learn the material, struggle to pick it up, and drag down the rest of the class as you try to help them keep up.
Eventually, even medicine will be mostly automated. We'll still need nurses for a while, because robotic nursing is a genuinely hard problem, but doctors could basically be replaced by IBM's Watson and a glorified secretary today. Besides being an extremely expensive career to go into, the long-term prospects are bleak. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: Do we really want to live in a society of lawyers?
Also, as others have mentioned, education used to be much more highly subsidized than it is now, even taking into account the availability of college loans (which are largely a more-expensive-to-the-student replacement for the government subsidies that used to exist). Yet people continue to choose those degree programs. Could it be that you're wrong about the value to society? Folks with degrees in the performing arts are guaranteed a menial income for the rest of their lives, but they're also doing something that they enjoy. When faced with a society of people who are getting more and more unhappy, given that happiness is a strong predictor of longevity, arguably those degree programs benefit society a great deal even before you consider that their creative output improves society directly. And many art history majors learn (either as part of their degree or on the job) how to do fundraising, which contributes greatly to the arts, and thus to society as well. AFAIK, there aren't degree programs specific to arts development in most places, so art history and music degrees are often as close as you can get.
Now I'm not going to argue that I know the value of those other degrees you mentioned. I suspect that at least for now, they mainly qualify you to be a high school guidance counselor or maybe a politician, but that's just a guess. But in my experience, the job market creates interesting opportunities based on the availability of people with specific skills. If there are enough people with those currently low-value majors, somebody (maybe even somebody who majored in one of those fields) will come up with some interesting task that those students can uniquely perform after they graduate, and society benefits from the creation of those new areas of work and study.
Finally, I would add that the purpose of college is to educate students for the sake of learning—to open their eyes to the world's possibilities. Its purpose is not to be a trade school. We don't need more cookie-cutter STEM majors who got their degrees because they pay better out of school. We need a society of people who appreciate the world in which we live, who find ways to do what they love and love what they do, who understand how to learn, who understand how to think for themselves, who understand that they live in a diverse world of people with different backgrounds, different interests, different cultures, and different perspectives. And that is far more valuable to society than being able to check "yes" in the box that says "I have a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math", and I say that as someone with a Master's in CS, but with an undergrad degree that included a double major in CS and communications, with extensive music ensemble coursework on the side. There is great value to society in degrees outside of STEM. Not all value is financial in nature.