Oregon seeks ways to lower college costs

Hoping to boost the number of college graduates, Oregon is trying to make college affordable, writes Sophie Quinton in The Atlantic.

Currently, about a third of students in the Beaver State don’t graduate from high school on time—or at all—and just 61 percent of graduates immediately head to college.

. . . State and local funding for higher education dropped by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012 even as enrollment jumped by 36.2 percent, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Unsurprisingly, Oregon students are paying 18 percent more in tuition and fees than the national average, and students’ debt loads are soaring.

One proposal, “Pay It Forward,” would eliminate tuition at public two- and four-year colleges — if students commit to pay a fixed percentage of their post-graduation salaries to their college or to the state. A state commission is researching the idea.

Getting a statewide program off the ground could cost more than $9 billion over 24 years, until enough graduates are paying into the system to make it self-sustaining, The Wall Street Journal reports. Oregon will have to figure out how to track graduates who move out of state, what to do about students who enroll in college for a few years but never graduate, and how to maintain the balance of high and low earners necessary to keep institutions fully funded.

“Pay It Forward” wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the need for financial aid: Living expenses and other costs wouldn’t be covered by the program. And for students who enter low-paying fields after graduation, income-based repayment for federal student loans may actually be a better deal, according to The Washington Post.

Two years of community college would be free to all qualified Oregonians under a proposal by State Sen. Mark Hass.  “Two years of community-college credit is a much better value than a lifetime on food stamps,” the Democratic lawmaker says.

Oregon legislators also are considering requiring  all high school students to earn “dual enrollment” college credits, but the $1 billion cost is a barrier.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON December 12, 2013

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