I may be a university professor now, but I too was new in college in the 80s. Education cost at a university in 1980 was about $4,500 per student. Most States gave about 70% of that to the college and tuition was the student's share. About $1200 a year. Since then Education Cost has only risen with the average accumulated US inflation rate just like cars, homes, and just about everything in the economy.
If percentages stayed the same as in the 80's for tax collected and State support of education cost to colleges, then tuition now would be about $4500 per year. Why then is it more like 15-16 thousand dollars per year? Simple. States have gradually over the last 40 years deceased their cut of the Education Cost pie. Now they may only provide 16% of education cost per student to a college. That is a big shift from 70% of the pie. In 2022 who takes care of the other 84%.? You guessed it. The student and this is their much larger tuition.
The funny thing is that most legislators my age, also went to college in the 80s and they were happy to have the State provide 70% of their education cost. Many Americans from 50-80 years of age who complain about tuition forgiveness simply got their support from the Gov't before they wrote their tuition check.
The divestment in higher education and post-secondary trades higher education will diminish the competitiveness of the United States over the next few decades unless it is reversed.