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The “Free” Tuition Experiment

It seems as though many are considering the recent doubling of student loan rates as a tipping point to the education cost issue - with more alternative payment programs resulting.

Elizabeth Hoyt

July 10, 2013

The “Free” Tuition Experiment
No matter where you attend college today, costs have skyrocketed, leaving students with the impending doom of student debt for years to come. Meanwhile, public funding for education has been declining to the point of nonexistence, as far as many students are concerned. So, what can be done to combat the issue? It seems as though many are considering the recent doubling of student loan rates as a tipping point to the education cost issue - with more alternative payment programs resulting. Oregon may have a unique solution. According to Yahoo! News, the state legislature has approved legislation that will allow students to attend college without worry of tuition – at least for the time being.
The schools aren't going tuition-free but, rather, to a “Pay It Forward” scale of tuition. The new measure will allow any students attending Oregon schools (whether they are from the state or not) to attend the universities without having to pay any tuition or loans. Post-graduation, students will have three percent of their employee paycheck deducted for about a quarter of a century in order to pay back the program. The deducted amounts will then pay for future students’ studies. Payments will be based on a sliding scale of an individual student’s income, which means that even students who don’t obtain a great job after graduation will benefit for the relief efforts.
As a result, it’s not considered a loan but, rather, paying for future generations to take advantage of this “learn now, pay later” program design. Pay It Forward applies to both Oregon’s two and four year public educational institutions. According to the plan, those attending two year colleges would have 1.5 percent deducted from their future paychecks, rather than the three percent usually deducted.
Even students who don’t make it to graduation, regardless of the reason, would only have to pay back a scaled proportion of their income. The plan was put in motion after Oregon’s governor, Jon Kitzhaber, asked the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission to come up with a plan that would reduce student debt by 2015. The bill directs the pilot program to be ready for 2015 legislature consideration. As a result, the Pay It Forward plan came to fruition. Following the Pay It Forward plan will initially cost the state money to start-up, since the first generation of students to benefit from it will be years from employment. Pay It Forward actually began as a model of education payment used in Australia’s school systems. The Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit group from Seattle, Washington adapted the concept to suit Oregon. After Pay It Forward was designed, Portland State University students and the Oregon Working Families Party lobbied legislators to implement the new concept. Oregon is the first state to adapt the Pay It Forward type approach to higher education. Many other states, however, have taken an interest in the concept and will likely stand by watching closely to determine the program’s success rates.

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