I challenge you on this - do not tell me about all this, SHOW me. I live in the States
In the US there are federal grants ('free' government money) available to everyone who needs it. The grants provide enough money to cover most of the tuition at most of the inexpensive state-run universities.
There are also academic scholarships available to basically everybody who studies. (Sadly, many students do not study.)
Those who choose to attend the less prestigious state schools can very easily have all tuition and fees covered by 'free' money.
Those who choose to attend more expensive schools are eligible for student loans to cover the difference in cost and to cover some of their living expenses while in school. The student loans are subsidized by the government, have very low interest rates, and can be placed in deferment if you lose your job, cannot work, or have other issues.
The system of student loans has an unfortunate flaw in that the money is given to the student rather than the school. For most students that money is used responsibly for academic expenses. As I mentioned in my story above, some people take the student loans and use it to subsidise their lifestyle rather than using it for scholarship. Those people are often the ones saddled by heavy student debt.
I have a Bachelor's in general science, an associate's in communications, and over a dozen tech related certifications.
Everything except the associate's I had to pay for 100% - that degree I received in high school.
I have never qualified for ANY state or government grant - those are reserved for special interest groups.
I have never received any kind of governmental subsidy - again those are reserved for special interest groups.
I have, however, defaulted on my student loans, since I can not find any kind of job that pays more than my loan payments. My credit is wrecked, and any kind of retirement benefits I may receive in the future is forfeit (until the defaulted debt is payed back).
FAFSA is based in how much money you make, that's why your required to submit your tax return (or your parents). So if you made too much then you won't qualify for as much. It's not just for special interest groups. It's for poor people. There is also limited funds for each school and you have to get it in early or they will run out. FAFSA recommends you file asap in January and then submit as soon as you can. In Oklahoma one can go to a community college full time for about $900 a semester. There are a few nice 4 year institutions that has tuition around $1400 a semester. I regularly got enough to cover my tuition even when I was making 40k+ a year. Then on top of that they will offer student loans. The loans are there to cover any expenses you need to make school possible, like paying for staying in the dorms or rent of whatever. You can always turn down the loans and get a part-time job though. You don't have to take them to receive the FAFSA money.
Edit: Forgot to mention that my ex-wife took all the loans she could when she was going. The FAFSA paid her tuition but she wanted the money. So now she has a 30k student loan debt. I don't take the loans and I have zero school debt. It can be done.