From Kevin Drum:
The student loan market is a mess, and it's mainly a mess because the federal student loan program is woefully inadequate.
Follow the link to read the rest, it's worth it. The fact that higher education is too expensive for some people is ridiculous, as is the fact that it leaves most of us in debt that it takes years or decades to pay off.
Here's Xanthippas' and my thoughts on the subject:
X: Milton Friedman was a huge proponent of allowing people to borrow to attend college. He thought we should loosen restrictions on how much people can borrow to attend school, and make it easier to borrow. I read one of his books back in college and that idea has stuck with me ever since. But like a lot of people who seem to think that we can privatize everything, including personal funding for a college education, he failed to recognize that banks and corporations are full of assholes who will rip people off, and colleges will continuously raise tuition even as our economy shrinks and degrees become less valuable.
N: You know, many people make the argument that public institutions are more expensive and less successful than private ones, but I'd like to point out that we have the finest military in the world, which is completely publicly finananced and not for profit. For some reason, free-marketers think that making an institution for-profit will somehow garner better results, when in reality what happens is that you get a system that serves the elites well while the poor take what little public help is left. People should at least be able to take the number of hours it takes to get one degree without going into debt. Is our concern that somehow these people would be "cheating" the rest of us by taking tax money? I don't see how it would be any different from public primary education. Does every kid steal from us because we spend taxes educating them for twelve years? Well, not if you consider that every person is an investment in the future of this nation.
I'm not advocating that we just pour money into our existing education system. Colleges are over-priced for what they actually deliver and associated fees and textbooks significantly inflate an already painful tuition. But just because it may not be the best system it could be does not mean that it's time to scrap public subsidies of education. We need to get some of the smart college graduates to figure out how to fix this problem.