I work in financial aid at a large public university. Part of the issues with college costs is state support of higher education has diminished if not completely evaporated in most states. Colleges have had to raise their costs as a result. The Pell Grant program has not kept up with inflation or tuition costs so people who think students should work their way through college like they did "back in my day" aren't being realistic. I've worked with plenty of people at the university who share that belief too. As a fellow financial aid professional myself, I agree with this sentiment. I'll also add that a number of states screwed up int he 90's by letting their state ran schools set the tuition rates instead of the legislature. The end result was number of schools raising tuition to finance new construction. In 20 years time, the cost of tuition at the University of Houston increased almost five fold. Some of these states have reassumed control of setting tuition because they realized they gave the schools cart blanche.
I don't think "free college" is the answer, because someone has to pay for that. I also don't agree with mass loan forgiveness because it fixes the problem for this moment in time only. I do think income based loan repayment/forgiveness over a fixed amount of time (10/15 years) needs to be examined. The currently income based repayment over 25 years before discharge is too long, in my opinion.
People need to get through their heads that nowhere in the book of life does it say that everyone gets free college or even needs to go to college. A large majority of people I deal with are pissed off because they make way more money than I do, didn't save a damn dime, and feel like they deserve need based gift aid because they have two mortgages or a boat.
I've saved for my three kids to go to college because that's important to my wife and I. My oldest gets an academic scholarship but otherwise we pay out of our 529. The other two (twins) may get an academic award, but if not, they should have enough in their 529 plans to pay for college at a public institution.
I think there's plenty of merit for students to do work based apprenticeships or 2 year programs for industrial/trade based jobs. There's no shame in these type of jobs. I'm not technically skilled at all, and would love to have those abilities. My son has done drywalling and landscaping work during the past two summers to pay for his car and living expenses. I'm not just saying "it's good for some kids, but not mine".
Never said that I could 100 % substantiate it. And convincing you 100 % is not a concern of mine.