Step 1: Build an enormous and expansive set of opportunities for higher education and tell everyone that a college education is necessary for economic and social security in America-- but refrain from working towards public consensus on providing a free higher education for all.
Step 2: Create the illusion of access with a program of financial aid distribution that isn't backed with a real entitlement program tied to college costs.
Step 3: Do nothing to stem the behavior of bad actors and those who encourage them. Allow colleges and universities to raise prices and engage in rankings wars based on flawed metrics that distort the market. Fail to require states to maintain their effort to ensuring affordability. Allow, even encourage, private business to step into the gaps.
Step 4: Allow the value of need-based aid to decline while redirecting aid towards politically popular programs benefitting the non-needy.
Step 5: Refrain from fundamental reforms addressing the core crisis in the system, and instead introduce small modifications aimed at overcoming individual deficits rather than structural problems.
And here we are!
ps. I highly recommend the CLASP report that includes these figures.