Oregon encourages ‘Pay it Forward’ program

By Rylee Mathis Posted October 2, 2013

The Oregon Legislature has suggested that a trial of tuition-free, loan-free schools will be available in Oregon schools by the year 2015. The ‘Pay it Forward’ type program gives students the opportunity to attend college free- until after they’ve graduated and started their career, of course.

The participating colleges will acquire an acute 3 percent of previous students’ income for 24 years as pay.

Of course, a majority of students will still seek loans to help pay for other college expenses, not eliminating student debt. This concept has been studied numerous times, the only other place it has been suggested in, however, is New Jersey. It hasn’t been used yet because of the downfalls, such as the lack of money colleges would have at the beginning of the program and keeping track of every student, and their income, that participated in the program. But every good idea has drawbacks.

Most people are unclear on the details of this concept. One of the many questions being asked is, won’t students with higher income be paying more? The answer is yes, they will. 3 percent of some people’s income will undoubtedly be more than that of others. This just means their education may have cost more than their fellow participants’ education, or this could mean they have the opportunity to pay off their debt faster.  
The traditional route of schooling (at a 4-year college) costs anywhere from $21,000-$23,000 depending on the college you’re attending. This doesn’t include things like bills and other living expenses students today have to deal with. The ‘Pay it Forward’ route would cost you essentially the same amount, just later on in your life, and spread out over a certain amount of time. Students can deal with rent, food, water bills, etc. while they’re in school, then pay off their student debt when they have their lives in order in the future.

However, the constant fear of paying it forward is that these students may not pursue a career that makes enough money for them to pay off their student debt and also live comfortably. 3 percent of an income is vital for someone living paycheck to paycheck. As we get older, bills pile up and we seem to have less and less money. If someone were to participate in this program and, for lack of a better term, throw away their college education to work at a grocery store or something, they would barely have money for food.

How do we address this problem? Who decides what students go into the program and which ones don’t? Hopefully, the Oregon Legislature will have answers to these repeatedly asked questions soon.

In my opinion, going to college, essentially, for free is a great idea. If people could just be honest about how they live their lives and pay back the small amount of money they owe their college, this program could definitely succeed. When you’re growing up, you have to learn how to save your money. So if you could save enough for the majority of the rest of the college expenses, you could avoid heavy student debts in the future.

The plan could fail, but it would definitely be worth it to give it a try. Obviously coming up with the would-be tuition money will be challenging for the colleges; but if the program succeeds, imagine the doors that could be opened for students everywhere, not just in Oregon.