Maybe that's because education is so highly expected in the United States--we require and subsidize it more than most other countries--so the cost to not meeting that expectation is higher.
Up until very recently, I described my paternal grandparents as "high school dropouts." After all, neither of them had education beyond the 8th grade. But we're pretty shitty at acknowledging that nobody had an education beyond 8th grade:
In 1910 19% of 15- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in a high school; barely 9% of all American 18-year-olds graduated. By 1940, 73% of American youths were enrolled in high school and the median American youth had a high school diploma.
In one generation, we added four years of compulsory education. Our "forever" model of the way we teach kids goes all the way back to FDR. Most of the kids who stormed the beaches at Normandy had some high school while the sergeants bossing them around did not. The educational model we take as inviolate arose during a period of unprecedented prosperity; those who enforce it got their degrees when it was affordable and expected and they have no real concept of how unholy expensive it is now.
My wife incurred $200k of loans for five years of medical school. Her new employee, seven years later in the same school and same program, incurred $70k for one.