Why does someone need to go into debt to be able to have a minimal standard of living? I find it more acceptable to go into debt for a house than an education - at least the house "should" give some return on investment.
Well, let me answer with my own life story of sorts. And I'm not saying people should do exactly as I did, or that my way was the "best" way, or anything like that. I am merely using my own example to show that there are ways to create opportunities, that's all. So:
In high school, I realized that, although my parents had always told me I would go to a great college and get a great degree, and that I would be the first in the family to do so, I eventually realized that they neither had the financial means to send me to such a school nor the practical knowledge about how to actually make that happen without driving the family deep into debt (assuming it would even be possible that way). I didn't either. And although I had done reasonably well in school, as competitive as things were even in the late '80s, there was no way my grades and extra-curriculars would get me in and set me up financially. So I had to look at other options.
I went into the military for 4 years right out of high school rather than going to college. I didn't really know how that would pan out. But I also didn't really have a clue about much, and saw some of my friends that were a year ahead of me in school already in college just kinda goofing off and not really appearing to go anywhere productive. And I knew that, at the very least, I would be earning some money and skills, and earning GI bill benefits.
Once the military finished, I moved back home to save money and went to a local community college to do my first two (turned into three) years of school, again, to save money. I continued to either live at home or rent a cheap room back in my home neighborhood and commute to school rather than live on or near campus where it was a TON more expensive. Yes, I missed out on some of the "college experience." But I saved a lot of money, and didn't approach it as if I somehow had a right
to the "college experience." I also worked a lot of hours at part-time jobs, did my best to advance in those jobs to earn more money, and sometimes left jobs for better ones when I hit an advancement wall or a better opportunity came along. I also worked more and did side jobs when I was able, like during summer breaks. I also studied hard and applied myself to get good grades. Doing that in community college, I was able to transfer to my school of choice, which is one of the top 3 schools in California. I continued to do that, and got a full scholarship, plus a living stipend when I decided to continue my education and go to law school. (I also took a year off after my undergrad degree to work full time and sock away money for law school) In law school, I did similar things in terms of keeping my lifestyle simple so as to not incur unnecessary expenses.
All told, I came out of the experience with my parents contributing a grand total of $400 to my education, plus the room and board of my first year or so, and I had a grand total of $6,000 in student loan debt by the time I graduated law school in 2001. With a bit more knowledge, I could have done even better than that. But I'm not complaining. That is a VERY manageable amount of debt for an undergraduate and graduate education.
Again, not saying everyone needs to follow my example, or even do it in a way similar to how I did it. I am just using it as an example to show that there are a myriad of opportunities for people to find ways to get a good education without getting up to their eyeballs in debt. It requires research, thinking out of the box, making lifestyle choices that may be very different from one's peers, and various "sacrifices." But the opportunities are absolutely there. And while some of those opportunities look different in 2017 than they did in 2001, there are definitely MANY opportunities there today if people want that path. And I am also not saying that everyone should go out and get a college education, but am merely responding to your point that it is hard and expensive for those that want to.