Smart Money has an article with four "creative" ways to pay for college, including advertising on your body (see, "Online Casino Tattoos Woman's Face").
Is it that bad?
Or, put another way, is the "government/education complex" such a dominant political & commercial enterprise that their product justifies such acts?
Personally, I have received (financial) payback in my education many times over. That has a lot to do with a major that is in demand, and required considerable work to achieve.
But when you look at the secondary education cost equation today, it's different. Many jobs effectively require a college degree, since you are competing with so many candidates with a degree. This includes retail, hospitality, sales, mechanics, and so on. Will there be payback to your education, if you take yourself out of the workforce for four years and roll up excessive debt? Did you make a good economic decision in selecting your school and major?
Since the cost of tuition and fees well outpaces inflation, that may mean that either not enough schools are focused on value (or taxpayers are not as willing to support public secondary eduction), or the demand is rising for the product, increasing the price. Demand is certainly driven by the often-heard claims of the value of a college education. That may be true in an average sense, but not in every case. You cannot assume that all college degrees will provide economic payback (see previous post) and there are stories of people taking on over $200,000 in debt for a degree in social work - admirable work, but not if you can't afford it! (Aside: there are student loan forgiveness programs for social work).
So does the "education/government complex" drive this demand for a college education to an unreasonable level? We learned through the housing bubble (driven partially by the desire to expand home ownership by the government) that not everyone should own a house - we may learn the hard way that not everyone needs college. At least not just any college. Or any degree.
First, relax...it will be okay...eventually...
I know, it all sounds impossible. But more people are going to college than ever. And while many of them are accumulating debt faster than Congress, you can still get through this without an impossible financial burden. Just remember, that there will likely be no single source of money, you will have to be realistic on selecting the right school, and your major means everything. So, relax and start the journey, one step at a time...