The basic principle here is that people should, if able, pay for the benefits they receive and be responsible. See Key Principles.
This is the start of the design of it and even when this is "finished" it will have to be modified with cooperation and input from relevant resources.
THOSE WHO BENEFIT, PAY
Every citizen would have a personal loan account with the federal government and/or state government. I am looking at this from the viewpoint of the federal government, so state governments can choose as they wish. There will have to be some adjustment for what the states normally pay for.
We would have loan accounts where "entitlements" that were not paid for otherwise would be the obligation of the citizen, to the extent of the citizen's capability.
Interest would be accumulated at the rate of long term federal government bonds and would not be tax deductible.
The payback would be at at least 10% of one's income, once the income exceeded the poverty level (or some reasonable standard).
WHAT IF THE "BORROWER" IS BEING IRRESPONSIBLE?
Well, then it is up to the "lender" to spot that.
The lender would be restricted from denying any benefits that are deemed in the basic interest of society.
The undeniables would be:
1. A basic college education that is not at the more expensive schools.
2. A post college degree education, again that is not at the more expensive schools.
3. A loan for assuring one has adequate food and shelter in emergencies.
4. A loan for assuring one has adequate medical care (the government would assure in some way that all people were covered for major medical and preventive care, but citizens would be responsible for all costs that they can "choose", so that they are responsible for keeping the costs down. The model for such would be that of Indiana under Mitch Daniels' leadership: Cutting Health Care Costs, What Has Worked.
THE PAYBACK PROVISIONS
These would have to be very carefully designed. This is a difficult "judgment" to make.
We, as a nation, will have decided that we will bear certain costs for those who are unable to pay them back but which we deem as simply the cost of a value that we hold, at a minor cost to the average taxpayer
SOME MONEY WILL NOT BE PAID BACK, BUT WILL STILL BE AHEAD
One flaw in this is that many people will not be able to afford the payback. But that does not mean that it is ineffective or not beneficial. It would just be less effective than if all shouldered their own burden.
There is also a responsibility, I believe, to reach and educate those who are poor and uneducated. They are sometimes called those who deprived. In a sense, that is true. Since they do not have a constructive culture in many ways, they tend not to have the values that will work in this society plus they are not informed enough to take advantage of what is available.
Educating these people will benefit us all, so it is justified on just that one basis. However, the level of humanitarian benefit is invaluable.