College isn't everyone's goal. But some people take community college classes starting at 16 and then go on to a 4 year college after that. Some people take the GED. Some people have parent issued diplomas. Some participate in accredited diploma programs. And there are accredited high schools and colleges that don't give grades to their students. Grades aren't the only way for a college to assess a potential student.
Once college became the New High School, and it became widely accepted as "Everyone's Goal" and something you can't support yourself as an adult, without, the advantages of a college degree started degrading markedly. It's no longer an advantage to have one, when everyone has one. When you have to have a Bachelor's to even be in the running to pour coffee, the joke is on all of us, and the colleges laugh all the way to the bank.
The tipping point has been coming for some time, of people realizing how backward of a bargain "just any old college degree" has become for people who were not intending to be brain surgeons, and that taking out debt the size of a starter home, that you then can't pay off while pouring coffee with the degree, is a very bad bargain over people who became plumbers out of high school.
I'm just glad my kids are still a few years away from having to figure all that out! Because my generation was raised with the ingrained message of the only way to get ahead is to be smart, get a good degree, and out the other side, you get a good lifestyle, and for a few, that worked out, but not for most. Most found that the price of college wasn't justified by the earning potential it generated, even though without a degree, you are hardly qualified to pour coffee.
It's a catch 22.