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Oregon's Innovative Pay-it-Forward College Tuition Program

| by Sarah Siskind
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Some high school seniors worry about the freshmen fifteen. Many students, however, worry about making it to college at all. The average tuition for both public and private schools has increased by 27% (adjusted for inflation) since only 2008.

Students at state universities in Oregon, however, can rest at ease, at least about paying their tuition. In late June, both houses of the state legislature unanimously passed a bill known as "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back." Under the law, students go to a state school for free but sign a contract forfeiting a small, fixed percentage of their annual post-graduation income. Four-year degrees will pay 3% and two-year degrees, only 1.5%.

Appropriately, the bill was thought up by students at Portland State University and presented it before state legislators. Ironically, the bill was passed the same day interest rates doubled on federally subsidized loans.

As for the next step, Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission will develop a pilot program and, if successful, the program will be applied statewide. Though novel and exciting, it is not abundantly clear that the project is financially feasible. It is certainly a high-risk operation but may induce greater college enrollment in the long run.

Perhaps one of the more appealing aspects of the bill is degree to which schools will be accountable for the quality of jobs their undergraduates find. With a tangible financial stake in their students’ professional future, schools will certainly be directed towards a more technical approach. However, students seeking a liberal arts degree may be disappointed, feeling pressured to find a high-wage job.

Sources: ABC News