February 11th, 2013 by shughes
Can you imagine higher education without student debt? We can.
This week, the Oregon Working Families debt-free higher education bill, Pay It Forward, was introduced in the Oregon legislature by Rep. Michael Dembrow (D / WFP). It’s the first time a bill like this is being introduced anywhere in the country, and it’s a real game-changer.
Our proposal would allow Oregon public university and community college students to pay no tuition or fees. Instead, they would pay a small percentage of their income after college into a social insurance fund that would allow other students to do the same.
There’s no debt, no interest and fees, and no predatory Wall Street lenders. It’s that simple.
Currently, Oregon’s public higher education system is in crisis. Ongoing cuts to public funding have caused tuition to sky-rocket, placing an unsustainable burden on students and families, and pricing students out of a college degree. At the same time, classes are cramped, and faculty and staff are being stretched thin.
Meanwhile, with Oregon public university students now saddled with an average of over $25,000 in student loan debt, graduates are paying hundreds of dollars a month to Wall Street lenders, and much of that only covers interest and fees. This is unsustainable for students, for families, and for Oregon’s economy.
Pay It Forward is the solution. It creates a system of public higher education that is accessible for all, and a stable funding stream to pay for it.
This is going to be a long fight, and this is only the beginning. Our bill will create a task force to draft legislation that will be considered in the 2014 legislative session. With this bill, we are taking the first step toward making debt-free higher education a reality. It’s a long term strategy, but it is one we can win with your help!