I'm lucky that I never got sucked into college debt. I didn't even know they existed when I graduated highschool when I was 17.
But the script goes something like this. Kids have teachers, parents, and the culture telling them that college is a sure path to success. At the same time, kids are told that following their passion is the highest good in life. And of course, college is portrayed as a fun time with lots of partying and shenanigans and sex. Who wouldn't want that?
So kids pick a degree that sounds cool or sounds like something they might be interested in. Of course, colleges have helpfully set up many 'fun' degree tracks. Money is made readily available to fund all this.
Why do people take the money? Well, they "must" go to college. Only deadbeats don't go to college. You might end up as a plumber or a roughneck if you didn't! And they wouldn't lend you money if you couldn't pay it back, right? Besides, pursuing your passion is more important than money? Besides, our parents had good jobs and nice house and shiny cars so we'll be fine too.
And then they graduate. Jobs are no where to be found, but they spent all that time and money on their degree so they don't want to look at other things. Of course, there is massive pressure from our consumer culture to live a certain lifestyle. That's what we've freed ourselves from here, but it can be very difficult to do, especially if you're not a very conscientious person.
One other thing. To many people, paying these debts must seem a Herculean task, and at those interest rates, it is. The very thought scares the hell out of me. My wife has $7k from hair dressing school and that's bad enough.
So I think the solution here isn't to mock people for doing what they were told to do by going to college, damn the debt. The solution is to stop using laws and government money to subsidize this nonsense, and to change the way we talk about college.