England has recently followed our great lead and decided that the price of a university education should be sufficiently high to ensure everyone graduates with a massive amount of debt. It was moving in that direction when I taught there. I tried to warn people that aside from the 'making people pay' part, it would transform academia by turning students into customers. Hello student evaluations and competitive pressures!
The basic thinking seems to have been that it was wonderful for university to be free back when most people who attended were quite wealthy, but once the masses started getting ideas about going it was time to force them to pay. And there again is your generational divide.