You sound like you're well educated, well spoken, and resourceful, so I'm going to assume that you are somewhere in the neighborhood of top 5% material. That means you can pretty much do anything you want to if you put enough effort into it.
There are two types of people in this world: those who run the world and those who live comfortably in it (and, of course, everyone else, but they are irrelevant to the discussion). Who do you want to be?
I've been around a lot of wildly successful people, and they have two consistent traits: connections and freedom.
First, everyone always told me that "it's not what you know, it's who you know", but I never appreciated it until after college. The world runs on connections. The more connections you have, and the more successful they are, the more successful you will be.
Second, the more freedom you have, the more opportunity you will have to take chances, which is how you become wildly successful. Freedom comes from not being in debt (first) and having money (second).
Why do you think Harvard grads are the guys that end up having so much money and power? It's probably because they grew up in a rich family which provided them money (freedom) and a wide social circle of rich people (connections).
So you're not rich. What to do?
Well, the easiest way to get into that group is to go to college with them. And that means you need to get into Harvard or another Ivy League. Stanford if you want to be an engineer.
College will be where you will make your most intense and long-lasting friendships. That roommate at Harvard that you went on the crazy four-day road trip with may someday be CEO of a company... and when he needs a CIO, you can be damn sure you'll be at the top of the list if you're qualified.
But Harvard costs a lot of money...which means you'll be in debt, a lot, when you get out of college. You'll have lots of rich, important friends(connections), but you'll be deeply in debt (no freedom).
Most of these type of people end up becoming consultants at big firms because they pay well. You'll live a comfortable life and pay off your student loans in five or 10 years. Then you'll continue to live comfortably, but at that point you'll be too old to take huge chances and too comfortable to change things (or perhaps you'll have a big mortgage = no freedom).
With a heavy debt load, it's almost impossible to, say, join an early stage startup and really be able to take huge chances. You can do it, maybe.
Or, as an alternate option, you can do what I did. Go to a cheap state school and graduate with no debt. That puts you on the other side of the fence: freedom, but no connections.
Then, in order to be successful, you have to figure out how to get connections. Goldman Sachs won't hire you, and everyone you meet is going to automatically assume you're mediocre because of where you went to college. At this point, your only option is to take big chances. Move to New York or San Francisco, offer to work for free as an intern somewhere or something. It can be done, and it's really not too hard, you just have to have lots of spending restraint because the little money you have has to go a long way.
So what are the other options?
Well, some people are recommending that you think about not going to college at all. That will certainly save you money and give you a four year head start on whatever you decide to do (freedom), but you'll forever be branded as that guy without a college degree. Think my second option above but just two or three times worse. You won't even get that free internship, and you'll be that weird guy at dinner parties who can"t answer the first question "So, where did you go to college?". It doesn't matter if you're self-taught; life isn't a meritocracy. If you're very good, you'll end up getting a nice cushy job pushing ones and zeros. A nice cushy golden handcuff job.
Well, you could go to community college. They're certainly cheap. You can spend very little money so you'll end up with fairly good freedom. I might add, though, that community colleges teach trades, and not high-level things like management and complex architecture. You'll be behind technically, but not as bad as if you didn't go at all.
How about connections? Your fellow students will probably lack ambition, money, and connections. They'll be candidates for entry-level wage slave jobs at Fortune 500 companies after they graduate. If they get lucky, they'll work up to middle management. There's no alumni association, and there's certainly no "DeVry Club" in downtown Boston. At New York and Silicon Valley dinner parties, having a community college degree is almost as bad as having nothing at all. Indeed, the entire value of the community college degree will be what you learn, and you'll be learning at the speed and level of your classmates.
If you get into an Ivy League school, go and hope you get some grants to help you out. The debt will suck, but you'll be well positioned for the future.
Otherwise, go to a cheap second-tier school where you can get a large scholarship. There are also lots of third-party scholarships that are out there on the Internet you can get. I got a couple from local organizations.
Don't work during college. Focus on expanding your network instead; the future value of a minimum wage job while you're trying to go through school is practically zero.