At the turn of the 20th century, Andrew Carnegie envisioned an education system which would create economic pathways for lower and middle class Americans. He referred to this as the ladders of ascent. Carnegie feared that without such a pathway, America would become an elitist society.
In 1965, looking to increase the American intellectual labor pool the American government launched the Federal Financial Student Aid Program (HEA). This initiative was meant to assist millions of lower and middle class Americans earn a college degree. When the program started, the maximum amount of Federal Grant monies awarded to a student could cover 84% of the average cost for attending a public institution. But, in 1981 President Ronald Reagan and Congress changed this policy, paving the way for the current trillion dollar loan empire, which has made many wealthy, while thrusting millions into financial oppression.