Its hard to really compare parts of the world. On one had its true that America has a shitty bus system but on the other hand you read these stories about how people in the Philippines have to commute for 3-4 hours a day walk 5 miles just to work as a maid and earn barely enough food to prevent starvation and pay for bus fare. The problem I think really is "quality of life".
Its theoretically possible to work 80-100 hours a week in 3 shitty minimum wage jobs to pay off student loans if you are motivated enough but its requires a discipline that a lot of people don't have. And the incentive isn't really there, you aren't working to prevent starvation you are working to pay into this nebulous account. Even if you do pay it off its not like your life is any better for it. So you do enough to get by (which could mean 2 shitty minimum wage jobs) and you don't bother with paying loans.
For a lot of Americans out there there isn't a lot of "Hope". They aren't seeing their friends and peers move ahead and get out of poverty, instead they are seeing those friends and peers get crushed and dragged down so all they are doing is trying to say afloat.