Can No Tuition Up Front Be a New Model For College?

Career College Central summary:

  • Fed up with the state’s disinvestment in higher education, John Burbank, a Seattle-based liberal policy analyst and executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, has come up with a plan to help students finish their degree without going into debt. The high cost of college education led Burbank to a proposal for universities to charge nothing upfront as along as students agree to share a small part of their future income. Burbank shared his idea with Rep. Larry Seaquist, who liked the idea but had no way to put money into the plan.
  • Students at Portland University heard about the idea and used it as a basis for a semester project in fall 2012. They then presented the project to Oregon state lawmakers who were also fond of the concept. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature unanimously passed legislation to study what it called the Pay Forward, Pay Back program. The passage in Oregon put the plan in the spotlight, prompting a handful of states to consider similar proposals and drawing interest from Oregon’s congressional delegation.
  • According to Annaliese Davis of The Olympian, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkely proposed that the federal government would provide 90% of the program’s funding and the state would provide 10 percent. The idea has now been brought back to Washington by Seaquist, who says that due to tuition hikes, and underfunding of state grants, the proposal should be a priority. House Bill 2720 would create the Pay it Forward program, which would allow students to skip tuition if they sign a contract agreeing to later pay a small percentage of their income for a set number of years.
  • The bill states that the Washington Student Achievement Council will select five public highs schools to participate in the program. These students would enroll in Pay it Forward and pay nothing upfront for higher education.

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