The only reason I mention student loans as opposed to mortgages is that they are similar in many ways (they are given to idiots with no money and are very large) and they created yet another "bubble" that is most certainly going to pop.
$8500 a year? Maybe that's the tuition-only price for a community college. I went to a relatively cheap state university and including tuition, food, room and board, transportation, books ($500 a semester for some students), and even with a in-state discount, it was over $18,000 a year. I paid for a lot of it out of pocket, of course, but there is something very wrong with that -
The decision is made when you are 17! Still in high school! Most kids don't know enough to question the system yet. They just know what parents and guidance counselors tell them. Nobody even tells them that dorms are twice or three times as expensive as apartments, and the meal plan is twice as expensive as the grocery store. Pardon me for trying to shirk my responsibility, but these were contracts I entered when I was a kid, and everybody was telling me it was the right thing to do. If I knew then what I knew now, maybe it would be different - but I don't think financial institutions or colleges want young students to know that they are making a bad decision.