Oregon legislature passes bill to “provide tuition to students while they attend community college and public university.”
The legislation, which was approved unanimously by the Oregon State Senate on Monday, is called “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back,” and is intended to allow students “to go to a public university or community college tuition-free with a binding contract that they will pay a small, fixed percentage of their annual adjusted gross incomes after they graduate.”
The next step is for Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission to develop a pilot program for the “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” plan, and in 2015 lawmakers will have to decide whether or not to implement the proposed program.
Barbara Dudley, a professor with Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs: Hatfield School of Government, and her students are responsible for coming up with the plan. According to ABC News:
Dudley’s Portland State University students conceived of “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” and presented the idea to state legislators, including Rep. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat. It was developed with other organizations, like the Oregon Students Association, and supported by the Working Families Party, of which Dudley is a founder. Then Dembrow presented a House bill with the idea.
Democratic state senator Mark Hass, chair of the senate education committee, was the sponsor of the bill in the senate.
“This is what thinking out of the box looks like,” Hass said. “Somebody’s got to come up with something. Look at what U.S. Senate did. They couldn’t even resurrect status quo, which wasn’t working. If we don’t do something dramatically different, we’ll continue sticking kids in college who aren’t able to pay for it.”
According to Fidelity, “The average amount of college loan debt from the class of 2013 was $35,200.” And thanks to Congress not acting last week, the interest rates for student loans have now doubled, going from 3.4% to 6.8%. Meaning that most graduates enter the work force carrying a significant amount of debt. Dudley explains, “Essentially what it does is allows you not to carry a debt load. It’s not a debt that you graduate with — your debt-to-credit ratio is not mucked up and you can participate in the economy, which is a novel thought.”
One financial model proposed by the students makes the recommendation that:
All community college students pay 1.5 percent of their incomes while all four-year public university students pay 3 percent—both for the duration of 20 years after graduation.
This model would allow for students to graduate and enter the job force without already carrying debt they must struggle to pay off, while also giving those coming behind the same opportunities they had.
What do you think?
Could Oregon have found a possible way to alleviate student debt?