Perhaps the incentive structure of the education system needs to be revised so that at least some of the higher education providers offer to collect a part of their fees through a profit participation scheme, like for instance by receiving a small percentage of the student’s future earned gross income that is above the level that the student could have been estimated to earn without further education, during his first 20 years of work.
How are then the universities going to pay for their professors now? Easy, that is what the financial markets are for. These participations in the future of our youngsters could be securitized and sold in the markets, perhaps even as a good investment for a professor’s retirement fund… of course, that is if the professor delivers on his promises.
For a university to show a willingness to invest in their own students, because they are sure of what they are giving them, might be a better marketing tool than outright grants and “we invest our money in your future” is my slogan. Also, for students, the question of what university offers to invests the most present dollars against the smallest percentage of the expected future earnings... should rank among the first when selecting an Alma Mater into which to invest their own future.
Parents should concentrate on giving their children the best pre-university preparation possible and thereby helping them to negotiate the best conditions possible with the universities. That there are careers needed for the society but where salaries might not be sufficient to pay off the university that is a different problem, and perhaps has to be solved by paying out specific amounts of subsidies or covering set percentages of the costs for different careers.
PS. If I owed a student loan I would ask for a debt to equity conversion, offering a percentage of my after tax earnings over a certain amount for a definite number of years.