The United States government made it far too easy for students to take loans, and colleges pounced on students' willingness to take loans and jacked up tuition costs disproportionately to the rest of society - knowing full well that students would eventually bear the full financial weight of their poor choices and the government would be forced to make good on those loans one way or other. With that in mind, it doesn't matter whether you label the US government's current meddling in the college tuition debacle "overcharge reimbursement" or "loan forgiveness," because at the end of the day either way you choose to title such a program is little more than playing games with semantics.
In my opinion, what should be happening is these same colleges should be forced to eat part of the costs; some office of the government should take each college individually and review their tuition costs back to 1970 and compare the rise in tuition with inflation in the rest of society and determine whether each college rose their tuition costs more than inflation, and that's the part of the costs that the colleges should be forced to absorb - WITH NO GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS. If a college has to layoff workers to balance their books, then so be it, because there are ample studies available about colleges hiring an exponential number of non-educators with the increased fees they were charging, so that should take care of itself.
Once the colleges' culpability has been taken care of, the remaining costs are the financial obligations of the students - WITH NO GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS, either. While I realize that colleges were offering easy money to students at a time when most students were too stupid to realize the ill-effects of staggering debt (which is also why credit cards set up shop in student unions across the country), I have zero tolerance for students who claim to be a "victim" when no one was holding a gun to their collective heads. At any time the students could have said no. Instead of a loan for exorbitant tuition, students could have:
- Gone to a different colleges (which would have encouraged colleges to be competitive).
- Pursued their base courses through a cheaper, two-year college to save costs (which would have also forced four-year colleges to re-examine tuition costs to attract newer students).
- Spent more time researching the millions of dollars that are available each year as grants and scholarships (which most students ignored since those involved doing some "work" to discover and apply for, and loans only required a signature).
- Taken time off between high school and college to save up for school (which MIGHT have encouraged colleges to create more attractive entry-level pricing).
- Join the military to earn money for college (which is what I personally did).
In addition, students could have chosen a different major, or a different school, or a different career path, or refused to go to college, or myriad other options that were available to them. However, most students took the easy route and chose to sign a loan for their education - AND THAT'S TOTALLY ON THEM. Regardless of whether the school was charging too much, at the end of the day each student made a conscious choice to enter into debt unwisely; the same choice that people make when they sign up for a 33% credit card, or take a loan for a vehicular lemon, or pay too much for a property without doing the requisite market research, etc.
As I said earlier, no on held a gun to students' collective heads. If students signed up for massive amounts of debt, that is entirely on them - the rest of the country should not be forced to pay for their collective stupidity through taxation. On the contrary, the colleges themselves should be forced to reset tuition levels to reasonable rates and backdate loan amounts accordingly, and students should be required to pay off the remainder.
PS - If something like this proposal was rolled out, I would also suggest that whichever office of government went through the books to synchronize college tuition rates with inflation over the past several decades should also be able to force schools to adopt realistic tuition rates going forward, too. If a school is caught trying to jack up tuition rates, they should be penalized in some way.
For more things to think about, see Why is College So Expensive?, New Rule: The College Scam, Is College Worth It?, and Game of Loans.