Although high college debt certainly does weigh heavy on Mainers, the core problem is the means by which debt accrues: the cost of education.

When I left Maine and signed my first college loans in 2005, I entered willingly into a legal contract. It’s now my obligation to pay back the money that I borrowed so that I could attend a prestigious liberal arts college. My heavy debt burden renders the contract neither illegal nor unfair, nor does it obligate wider society to absorb the cost of my decision to attend a college that cost more than $40,000 every year.

The ethical and legal question is not whether the terms of my loans were unfair and must now be nullified; the real question is why is the cost of high quality education so exorbitantly out of reach of median income families?

We need to assess what students’ families pay for when they attend college: student programming, athletic programs, meal plans, new dormitories, state-of-the-art gyms and a myriad of other things that are not directly related to instruction.

These are luxuries, and they contribute to the addiction many young adults have to leading lifestyles beyond their means. Entitlement to high-quality education is not an entitlement to colleges with five-star accommodations.

The public subsidy of education helps achieve common good; the public subsidy of the overblown and accessorized “college experience” is unjust. Instead of absorbing debt, we need to demand that post-secondary education in the United States slough off the trappings of prestige and luxury and instead focus on forming minds. We must demand more from colleges and universities by first demanding less.

Rebecca Krier is a Maine native who now lives in Wellesley, Mass.