Except when considering the greiviously overpriced tuition fees for universities.
You have to consider the cost of books, food and housing which accounts for another portion of the debt.
Under government contracts books could be provided free, food could be provided free, and housing could be provided free.
Not to mention, if you were to governmentally fund schools, then the salery of proffessors could be capped so that that $90,000/yr is more in line with their actual position (note, that's just the average, with some profs raking in more then $125,000/yr)
What students are paying for in actuality isn't an education anymore, rather they're paying for a Brand and Logo.
How? Nothing can be provided for free, books cost what books cost no matter who's paying. Also, the books and housing and food accounts for only a small portion of the cost. UChicago costs about 60k a year, and I'm only paying like 1500 for books and a meal plan. And capping professors' salary just makes them do things other than teaching.
Not really, the US' University system is widely recognized as the best in the world. It's a "Brand and Logo" backed by the best professors and research opportunities the world has to offer.