Actually, yes. These loans can't even be dismissed via bankruptcy and many government benefits are tied to the repayment of them.
Because no lender in their right mind would loan students money to begin with.
Student loans are unsecured - the student doesn't put up anything and can borrow easily $100K. And if the student can't find a job, it's not repaid. No lender would take that kind of risk, especially at a measly 7% interest rate - typical unsecured loans are closer to 20-30% (you know them as credit cards).
So the government has to put in some incentives otherwise financial institutions will not provide the loans as they're too risky. By making it non-dischargeable, the banks know that declaring bankruptcy will not make it go away for pennies on the dollar with no recourse (assuming they can get anything - secured creditors are paid first and often the money isn't sufficient to cover those so those take pennies on the dollar. Unsecured creditors typically get zilch).
It's just like if your company goes bankrupt - as an employee, your unpaid wages and benefits are unsecured, so you line up with the rest of the unsecured creditors to hope to get some money.
Back to Tesla, those DOE loans went to a lot of people. Few companies every paid even a portion back. Tesla managed to pay it back, early, with interest.