Oregon plan is gamble for students, taxpayers

Under Oregon’s Pay It Forward, Pay It Back plan, students would pay no tuition at state universities — if they agree to pay 3 percent of their earnings for 24 years. Community college students would pay 1.5 percent. The bill tells a state commission to study how to make the idea work. A pilot plan is possible in 2015.

Be wary of no-money-down offers, warns Inside Higher Ed.

It won’t work, argues Sara Goldrick-Rab on Education Optimists. Tuition at the University of Oregon is $9,830 a year, but students would have to pay another $14,000 for room, board, books and supplies. So even those who postpone tuition will have to borrow to pay college costs. Lower-income students still face “sticker shock” that may dissuade them from enrolling.

While Pay It Forward is supposed to be self-sustaining — eventually — the estimates are off, writes Goldrick-Rab. Students will earn less than projected and will resist a 24-year “mortage” on their education. Collecting will require using the IRS.

Students who plan careers in medicine, law, business and engineering will do much better paying the tuition up front, leaving Pay It Forward to collect only from low-paid graduates and dropouts.


It’s a terrible idea, writes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. Advocates say Oregon will need to spend $9 billion over the next 24 years to cover the costs, but that assumes students in high-earning majors won’t opt out. If they know math, they will. Furthermore, “only half of Oregon public college students finish a B.A. within six years.” Dropouts are expected to pay too for whatever years of free tuition they received, but they earn far less and will pay less. “The whole idea could turn into a financial albatross for taxpayers” or a nightmare for former students.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON July 16, 2013

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[…] if they agree to pay the state 3 percent of their earnings for 24 years. It’s a gamble for students and taxpayers, say critics. Students who plan careers in medicine, law, business and engineering will do much […]

Frankie C. Hansen

A number of years ago I began getting a glimmering of how many hours my undergraduates worked at outside jobs. So I took an informal poll in an upper division lecture course (some 70 students actually attending). It turned out that about half the students worked at least 20 hours a week; about 25% worked full time (40 hours). This was not to earn spending money. It was because their families couldn’t afford everything required to attend university. The students’ jobs covered some large part of tuition/fees, lodging, food, transportation, and spending money. Some of the work also went to building resumes for professional schools and careers. To understand this high proportion of students’ working, one should recognize that many students have siblings in, just past, or about to go into university — so their parents face educational expenses for those children as well. My university has never had sufficient housing for its undergraduates. As a result, students are given dorm rooms in their first year (not free, of course!), sometimes in their second year, but by their third year all undergraduates were expected to live off campus — meaning not only that they were paying market rates for housing but also market rates for food. Most also needed cars (this is, after all, California). They might have been using the cars to go snowboarding on weekends. But they also needed them to get back and forth between jobs, classes, and home.I have complaints about my students. But by and large they work very hard.

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