Wow, yet again I'm glad I don't live in America. In Australia, we have loans, but they're by no means as draconian. We even had free tertiary education for a long time. The fees we pay are a tiny fraction of what students in the US have to pay, but our our education system is still world class. I think it's better to allow more equal access to education (without the need of scholarships) as you end up with more of a student meritocracy rather than only those whose parents could afford it.
On top of that, we are a very wealthy nation. I don't want to rub in the: 40 hour weeks we work; the 4 weeks of holidays we get a year, or the the 3 months of long service leave we get every 10 years; but it is worth a mention as well as these kinds of rights lead to healthier societies.
I don't want my comments to sound anti-American. They're not. I like most Americans quite a lot and have visited a number of times. (I'm an avid skier!) However, it seems to me that a lot of people, especially the young and disadvantaged get a raw deal in the US. It also seems to me that the US is hell bent of making the super rich even wealthier whilst spending on insanely expensive military systems with money that could give people educations that didn't bankrupt them, whilst benefiting and transforming society for the better as a whole. Regrettably, I see a lot of injustice.
I'm not sure how it works in the US, but any loans we have made are only required to be paid back as percentage of our income once we reach a certain threshold. I hope you have a similar system...