options

Hello!
I have to choose between two options and I don’t know which one is the best: ‘There were hardly any / nothing like as many classes when I started as there are now.’ For me, the 1st option is good but the answer key indicates me the 2nd choice.Why?
Thank you for your time!

There were hardly any classes when I started as there are now’ cannot be correct because ‘hardly any’ does not match with ‘as there are now’.

You can say ‘there were hardly any classes when I started.’ but once you add that last phrase the sentence doesn’t work.