The reason why taxpayer-funded scholarships and direct student loans were enacted in the first place, was because without them, a poor but very bright student from the South Bronx or West Virginia had zero chance of affording an education in a major university.
While the average cost of tuition was definitely much lower 30 years ago, it was still way too high for any working-poor or blue-collar family to afford on their own without scholarships or other financial aid. Even if the kid got a minimum-wage job.
I know. I was there.