1. 18-year-olds are not very mature, particularly in America. So they sign loan documents and don't make the cognitive connection that it is they, not some "older dude" who will have to pay it back.
2. Many students spend lavishly during school, convinced the "hardships" of college entitle them to take-out pizza and a new car (I kid you not) plus, of course, a killer stereo, and a neat computer (which you need for school) and other junk. Many, if not most graduates live a worse lifestyle in the years immediately following graduation.
3. Legitimate Schools have raised tuition by 2-3 times the rate of inflation for the last two decades. This is, of course, the core problem. But students take this lying down and do not protest - except after they graduate, and then, only at Wall Street, instead of at the Dean's Office.
4. "For Profit" Schools encourage minorities and the poor to take out huge loans for largely worthless educations - educations that do not lead to high paying jobs (or indeed, any jobs) but saddle the victim with massive debt.
5. Even for "Legitimate" schools, many fields of endeavor do not pay enough to warrant spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education. A degree in Philosophy from an Ivy League schools might cost well over a hundred grand, and take a lifetime to pay back. But few jobs exist that would make it possible to every pay such a loan back.
6. The Middle Class is especially caught in this bind - not being rich enough to pay for their kid's education, and not being poor enough to qualify for grants, aid, and scholarships.
1. Legitimate schools cut their overhead and brought tuition back into line with reality. Good luck with that - do you really think the Dean is going to cut his six-figure salary? Do you really think the unions are going to allow a pay cut - or allow any group of less than five men be tasked to empty garbage cans on the quad? This is a non-starter.
2. For-Profit Schools should just be run out of town on a rail. But again, they have a lot of money to lobby Congress to protect their "legitimate" industry. So that ain't happening, either.
3. Amend the laws so students can declare bankruptcy and duck out on this debt. This would take us right back to 1980, and all the abuses that happened back then. No, that won't work, either.
1. Shop schools aggressively. If more students shopped on PRICE, then schools would have to compete on price and tuition would come down. With shrinking demographics in the college-age group, this could be very effective. But in the short term, a cheaper school means lower costs - and often an education that is just as good, if not better.
2. Borrow as little as you can. Live as a starving student, not a wealthy one on borrowed money. Doing without NOW will pay off in spades LATER. And most things you think you "need" as a student often end up distracting you from your education. Blowing a lot of money on cars, for example, is not only a waste of money, but a distraction from your studies.
3. Consider WORKING your way through college. Yea, I know, it sounds odd - no one can get a job once they graduate, how can you hope to get one now? But the truth of the matter is, there are jobs out there, even in a recession. I worked several jobs - at the same time - when I was in college, and that was during the last "worst recession since the great depression" in 1979.
4. Pick your major - wisely. Going to college without a definite course of action or plan makes no sense at all. Majoring in something because you "like it" and have no clue as to the job at the end of the pipeline, makes no sense at all. If you want to be an anthropologist, or a poet, or a writer, that is a fine and wonderful thing. But realize that these fields don't pay a lot, so it makes no sense to borrow $400,000 to get an education in such fields - you'll never pay it back. And majoring in such fields because the coursework seems easy is the ultimate in college foolery.
5. Consider NOT GOING to college. Today, a college education is not the guaranteed ticket to the middle class as it was in the past. So many people have college degrees that the value of a degree - particularly a worthless degree in "communications" or other such feel-good endeavors - is nearly worthless. College for many is just extended High School, and not much is learned there. If you are destined to be a tradesman or just want to run your own business, there are more direct and far less expensive ways of doing this. And bear in mind that some of the most successful businessmen in the world never went to college, or like Bill Gates, dropped out.
6. Stop Smoking Pot. Yea, a lot of college students like to have a four-year party, and pot is a big part of it - and where a LOT of that student loan money goes. If you are doing drugs and in college, think about where this is going. Because, chances are, it is the drugs that are inducing you to sign the onerous student loan documents and it is the drugs that is steering you toward "easy" majors with no hope of a post-college career. If you want to smoke pot, fine. But don't whine when it all goes horribly wrong for you.