I was also at university in the mid 90s - I was one of only two of my friends to be on a full grant of £2000 or so, which just about covered my accommodation.
The key difference is back then only 20% or so of people were going. At that stage, it was seen as a public good to educate a certain number of people to degree level. Now, it is a market driven business, and the providers have no incentive to provide a good course beyond to make money.
A pithy way of noting this is the way all higher education is universally now referred to by the infantilised word 'uni', with the providers trying to convince their clients that a degree from (eg) Sunderland is just as good as one from (eg) Durham.
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