This may sound a little like conspiracy theory, but I get the feeling education is being intentionally made increasingly inaccessible. Lets examine motive and opportunity. There are political entities that depend on a less educated populous. I will use the armed forces and consumer marketing as examples.
First off, motive of the armed forces. We do not have anything like the necessary standing volunteer force imagined by our forefathers. It has become a for profit machine that chews up the lives of many of the bravest and best american citizens and spits out cash for a hand full of corporate entities. In order to combat image issues of disabled veterans, it has become increasingly mechanized, but it still requires flesh and bone to operate. Where does this fodder come from? Mostly economically disadvantaged households by dangling the carrot of the GI Bill off a stick. There are still many fighting men and women who would enlist without this, though I'd be willing to bet if tuition was one dollar for every state funded school nation wide, enlistment numbers would drop precipitously.
What about the motive of marketers? An educated consumer base is much harder to please. When people are aware of health trade offs or environmental concerns, they are much less likely to settle for a product produced through an entirely profit motivated entity. I haven't eaten fast food more than once or twice a year (and even then only under duress) for a decade. This is mostly because many of the processes that produce fast food rob it of the nutrients that impel a person to eat in the first place. It would be too expensive to produce good food on the scale most fast food chains operate on. They are counting on people who lack a fundamental understanding of biology or even basic nutrition for a consumer base. Often this leads them to target the economically disadvantaged again.
Opportunity for systemic disruption of access to education happens at a political level. In our capitalistic system of governance (yes, i am implying they are so intertwined that "democracy" has been replaced with "capital-ocracy") anyone with a steady source of income of sufficient magnitude can be politically powerful. The most predatory capitalistic models have gone as far as creating far reaching protections for them selves in our political system. Need proof? The political party that, after years of being a proponent of deeply flawed "free market" ideals took an action that exactly contradicts the very core concept, namely Bush's bank bailouts at the end of his second term.
One of the strongest political influences (and we were warned about this by Dwight D. Eisenhower) today is the corporate controlled military industrial complex. What does this party stand to gain from an under educated citizenry? Imagine if the citizens of the Roman empire had wanted to stand up to the Praetorian Guard, what would it take? First and foremost, education. Why? Because it leads to empowerment through cooperation. People who don't understand the scope of issues can be propagandized. I hear people espouse beliefs all the time that stem from a source with an blatant agenda.
The result is people questioning the things like global climate change because less than 1% of the data used to make the case is flawed, but those flaws are seized upon by entities with a vested interest in preventing change. Evolution is denied despite incontrovertible evidence because religious entities see it as an attack on their source of profit embodied by followers. Unnecessary war created by political leaders so the companies that profit from it will continue to fund political campaigns. (I mean really, if you want to hurt Afghanistan fund an educational out reach program globally aimed at stemming opiate drug use. Iraq would have been better punished by funding programs to globally transition off fossil fuels.)
We are being robbed of our future by short sighted profit motivated entities. Capitalism has become predatory and the fight for education is just as important now as it has ever been.