Oregon Legislature Unanimously Passes Tuition Free Higher Education

free education

Oregon has come up with a plan to help provide higher education for free at their 7 state universities. Advocates of the legislation are calling it the “pay it forward” model. Students will be able to initially attend state universities free of cost. Upon graduating students will pay 3 percent of their paycheck for 24 years in order to help fund the program for future students. The model is partially based on the Australian model which has been fairly successful. Students will be able to enter college without the fear of being buried in debt by the time they graduate. Currently students who attend universities in Oregon graduate with an average of 24,616 dollars in debt.

The bill passed the Oregon legislature unanimously on Monday, ironically the same day interest on federal subsidized Stafford Loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor John Kitzaber this month.

The legislation directs the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission to develop a Pay it Forward pilot project set to launch by 2015. The bill also requires the commission to analyze whether the state can promise students that their tuition won’t increase during their four-year tenure in a state college. The biggest obstacle revolves around funding the initial program which will amount to 9 billion dollars. Since the first year of students won’t graduate for several years, the committee must find a way to help fund the program. However, since it appears everyone is on board with the plan, concessions are expected to be made in order to achieve the planned goal.

Student debt has become a burden on students just graduating from college. Oregon’s plan to help alleviate this burden is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking needed in order to help students become successful and productive upon leaving college. Student loan debt is now the largest source of debt aside of mortgage debt. Steve Hughes, the state director of the Oregon Working Family Party said,

“We need to fundamentally alter how we think about education. This is the first step to doing it. We need to start down the path because what we’re doing right now is absolutely crazy, and it’s not only bad for graduates and students, but it’s bad for the economy. The advantage is, all (payments are) going to the cost of the program. What we were really trying to get at is eliminate the role that banks are playing in charging interest and fees to students.”

Oregon will become the first state to implement the Pay it Forward program. Students can only hope that plans similar to these will spread around the states in order to help relieve the burden of student debt. This is the first step to empower the future middle class of America. Finally a state has the right idea when it comes to helping students. Although this plan isn’t considered a silver bullet, it sure is a step in the right direction.

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