I went to school in 1974. About any paid education and the speech was not. In schools, colleges and universities paid a scholarship to students, and not they for tuition. And after the institutes there was an obligatory working off, yes. But not free. People were paid their salaries. And, frankly, if the state invested in specialist training, why can't it use its short term (what is two years?) Where it is necessary for the state at this moment?
About literature - generally crap. In my childhood and youth, I read a lot of things, including "import" writers. Jack London, Mayne Reid, Alexandre Dumas ... Yes, a lot of things, you don’t remember everything right away. Yes, these books were in short supply, not everyone could get them.

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