I can recall when it was possible to attend graduate school in a public, technological university, paying both the tuition and the cost of living with the small stipend earned for accepting teaching assistant responsibilities. Undoubtedly if you plot the astronomical increase in tuitions against the increase in student loan availability, you will find that the two begin from roughly the same date. The classical example is how the cost of a dental filling increased dramatically just as dental insurance became available. There can be no doubt that both public and private universities have become cash cows for those running them.
Knowing that an unlimited cash cow exists in the stream of student loans has made positioning oneself in the midst of that stream very profitable,indeed. In "collateral damage" acceptable America, the middle man - the one caught in the squeeze: the student - has become all but totally forgotten. Scammed into debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no prospect of better than a minimum wage job (if that), she or he finds themselves headed into whatever future form of debtors prison America's politicians create - perhaps those "FEMA Camps" with their associated processing centers.
And the value of the education? You might do better reading the Bible and studying the history of the protestant reformation - at least that will provide a foundation for understanding the sorry state of current world affairs. Universities are not in the business of educating you, they are in the business of being businesses in the sense so well defined by the President Bushs': looting money from whatever source available. Indeed, the saddest chapter in American history over the past fifty years has been watching education, especially technological and vocation education going from a position of upholding the advance of civilization to becoming the worst sort of money grubbing institution.
My advice? Boycott the universities, go online or to your local public library, form education "collectives", become self-educated. An education "collective" could start as a group of people who, perhaps for a small fee, provide guidance and mentoring to those motived to educate themselves. Certainly the "education collective" idea can be fleshed out much more by interested parties. Forget about that "degree", that credential that no longer means anything. Rather focus on understanding the world into which you were born and how that world works. Rather than "politically correct" college social studies texts, read books like "The Creature from Jekyll Island". After all, the goal of education should be the advancement of civilization. In order to advance civilization you have to first understand how it works, and universities most certainly are no longer in the business of advancing civilization.
Before you get that student loan, be sure to read this article: http://counterpunch.org/whitney02042011.html