Americans with outstanding loans got significant relief this week. President Joe Biden extended the student-loan moratorium for another 90 days under the CARES Act of 2020.

"We know that millions of student-loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments," Biden said on Wednesday, rationalizing his decision to extend the student-loan moratorium.

But another extension won't solve the problem that haunts millions of Americans. It will just push it down the road for another day. So instead, the U.S. government could make higher education accessible to the American people to solve the student debt problem for good.

Student debt is a significant, widespread and chronic problem. Debt balances have soared over the years, growing to $1.7 trillion in 2020, according to educationdata.org. Roughly 43 million Americans owe an average of $39,351 each.

Some Americans end up carrying student loans into retirement. Nancy Landrum, a professor of sustainability management, is one of them.

"I [semi] retire at the end of this month and year [December 2021] and am still paying student loan debt," she said. "While my debt was approximately $100,000 when I graduated in 2000 after my fourth degree, it is now approximately $88,500."

She added, "Biden's limited waiver will not help me since loan forgiveness requires you to still be working full time at a qualifying institution at the time the forgiveness is granted. My retirement notice was submitted to my employer long before the waiver was announced by the current administration."

A sizeable outstanding debt is both an individual and a social problem. It's an individual problem because its payment ends up taking a big chunk of consumer disposable income, leaving less money for spending on other things. Also, it makes it hard for young people to qualify for different types of loans like getting a mortgage to buy a house. And it may discourage some people from getting an education in the first place.

That's where the private problem is turning into a social problem: student debt could undermine marriage, birth rates and education rates. That's not a good thing for the nation's long-term production potential and the quest for income equality.

The solution?

America should make higher education free, as has been the case in many countries worldwide. Greece, for instance, doesn't have the riches of America, yet higher education is free for those who merit it. After passing national examinations, students who enter higher education institutions and complete their studies successfully graduate debt-free and go on with their lives. Finland, France and Germany have a free tuition higher education system.

Why can't Americans do just that?

Landrum thinks that America should.

"Of course, our tax dollars should be spent to provide free [or affordable] higher education at public institutions," Landrum said.

Meera Balouchi, the founder of the Institute of Applied Empowerment for Young Women, is on the same page, taking the discussion a bit further.

"There should absolutely be free access to higher education for those who need it," she said. "Anything that is a basic check the box requirement for a well-lived life should be accessible to all who are willing to put in the work. What and how we teach should also be completely reimagined. Requirements and schedules should accommodate personal and professional growth and nonlinear progression."

The case for free higher education is evident.

What isn't clear are the conditions that should be imposed on a free higher education system.

Should it be limited to publicly owned institutions or extended to private institutions, too? Should free higher education be extended to those who merit it or those who need it?

These are difficult questions since economic resources are limited and have alternative uses. But it is time for America's leaders to begin addressing them if they want to solve the student debt problem for good.