Once upon a time, paying for college was a relatively simple task.
Parents who could often did. Teenagers with parents who lacked either the ability or the willingness to pay worked their way through school, which was easy enough to do at many schools before 1985 or so.
But then came rising costs and student loans, of which there are countless iterations, from the federal government and state agencies and private entities. Repayment plans proliferated, too, depending on your income and profession and the type of loan you had. And many colleges split their own grants and discounts into those based on financial need (where the aid offer is sometimes predictable) and ones based on academic merit (where the offers are often unpredictable).