Honestly, (and you've basically said this), taking out significant loans to go to college is not the same straightforward decision it used to be.
I understand that for some people it's simply not possible to go to college without taking on debt. I don't think this is the case for the vast majority of people. If someone would have made 18 year old me more aware of the burden that not going to a state school and working a job or two during my four years was going to be, I would have been a lot less likely to do it. Sure, I had fun, and I ended up without a lot of debt anyway, but it wasn't worth paying interest on for the better part of a decade.
One reason I returned to Europe.
Then why do 2/3 of all college students graduate with debt? Why have the largest tuition rises, by percentage, been seen in newly-defunded state universities?