I attempted to characterize an education as a tool. In a vacuum, it doesn't mean much (a hammer just sitting on the table doesn't do anyone much good). In the hands of someone who wants to use it, though, it can be very powerful. When I proposed this idea to Rob, he responded (rightly, I think) that education has an intrinsic value. Being contemplative, being able (even if you do not do so all the time) to think critically, being exposed to a community of scholarship - these are valuable things, regardless of how a person uses them.
After considering those points, I have reached the conclusion that it's very difficult - perhaps impossible - to place a value on "an education." Colleges and Universities make an effort to, but they only measure their costs: a student pays enough money to make sure the sidewalks stay paved, the dorms stay heated, and the faculty are paid for their teaching and research. Schools charge students in that manner because it's impossible - in my opinion - to gauge the value of what a student will end up doing with the knowledge and understanding of the world that she accumulates while sitting in Economics or English classes.
Some people attempt to compare the starting salaries that graduates of a certain degree make. For example, we have information that will tell us what the average sociology major spends to receive a degree. We can also guess what his starting salary will be. Although this information may be useful, it does nothing to tell us how a student changed because he took a Sociology class and now understands more about the intrinsic divisions within his home city. And that understanding - broadly termed as "the liberal arts" - is what will allow him to infer and comprehend more things about different cities and populations throughout the world.
I anticipate that you will soon see a subsequent post from a colleague and friend of mine, fellow former LAUC President Geoff Halberstadt. Until then, though, I know that there are a wide variety of views on the value of an education (or how we can value it, if we must), so I will stop here and invite debate in the comments: do you feel that we can state a value for an education? How would you value your education? Would you consider tuition and fees an appropriate numerical representation of the knowledge you acquire while pursuing your degree?