Oregon Proposes to Eliminate Upfront College Costs

Oregon State legislature has unanimously passed a bill that could entirely change the way that the public college education system is funded. The plan, called Pay It Forward, was conceived by students and backed by the Oregon Working Families Party, a political party which promotes progressive candidates and policies. Pay It Forward proposes to get rid of college tuition fees, and instead for college graduates to pay the state a percentage of their income after graduation. This would mean that college students no longer had to take out crippling loans to pay their tuition fees.

This plan won’t come into force for a few years; the bill mandates that the Higher Education Coordinating Committee set up a pilot Pay It Forward project which will be considered by the 2015 State Legislature.

The new system envisages students not having a lump sum hanging over them upon graduation, but rather that they pay a small percentage of their income over a long period of time. The bill, in its current form, suggests that graduates of four-year programs pay three percent of their income—and grads of two-year schools pay 1.5 percent—for 24 years, but payments would be waived in years of unemployment. The idea behind this is to allow students to take jobs that pay less upon graduation but that have a better social benefit, since they do not have to worry about college tuition repayments.  This does, however, mean that graduates who earn more will pay more for their college education – which has proved controversial for some conservatives.

The plan is also intended to pay for itself; a very optimistic goal. This is where the plan derives its name, since each generation will pay for the generation that follows. It is estimated that an average student who obtains a bachelor's degree would pay $39,653 into the Pay It Forward fund, which would cover the value of their tuition and fees, plus another $7,000 or more.

It’s not only Oregon that’s looking into a Pay It Forward type program; neighboring state Washington is also considering a similar plan according to Time magazine.

Do you think this is an improvement on the current system? Weigh in below!