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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Pay it Forward, Pay it Back’ an innovative way to help students pay for college

    What if someone told you that you could go to college for free? Free, as in, student loans, grants, and scholarships can be completely disregarded. In a country where student loan debt is skyrocketing, the idea that someone could attend a university or community college for free seems ridiculous.

    But, the idea could be a reality in Oregon. A week ago, Oregon’s senate passed House Bill 3472, or “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back.”

    Basically, this plan would allow students to attend public universities and community colleges tuition-free, in exchange for a small percentage of their adjusted gross income after graduation, which would fund the program for future students.

    A pilot program is being developed with the hope that it can be launched in 2015.

    Although the plan still is in a preliminary stage, and the development of the program has already hit roadblocks, this is exactly the kind of creative innovation this country needs to address its deteriorating education system.

    Ironically, the day Congress doubled student loan interest rates is the same day the “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” bill was passed. The plan appears to be a hopeful alternative to this student loan crisis.

    Kasey Urquidez, associate vice president for student affairs & enrollment management at the UA, said an innovative program like this one makes the future look hopeful when it comes to an affordable education.

    “It would get people excited because there is opportunity for them,” Urquidez said.

    Instead of living in a society where students are in a constant battle between dreams of obtaining an education and the reality of not being able to afford it, this program would allow students to receive the education they deserve.

    Today, many students work part-time jobs throughout college to pay off their increasing debt. This program would allow students to focus on their education instead of worrying about money.

    Of course, there are also many questions and concerns that this program has to address. For instance, hard-earned, merit-based scholarships could be void if this program becomes active. This means that, essentially, everyone will be going to college for the same price.

    Developers of the pilot program should still consider accepting merit-based scholarships, which could be applied to reduce the percentage of an individual’s payment following graduation.

    Merit-based scholarships aside, everyone will still be paying a different amount for the education they receive following college graduation, depending on their adjusted gross income and how many years of education they receive.

    Unfortunately, this simply poses another issue that this program still needs to address.

    “There will be a different value placed on different types of degrees,” Urquidez said. “Students who earn more money will end up paying the costs of students who graduate with a humanities or liberal arts degree, degrees that don’t earn a person very much money, and who won’t have to pay as much when they graduate.”

    If a student receives a four-year degree, they will end up paying three percent of their income annually, for 20 years, according to the “Pay it Forward” FAQ page.

    In other words, if a person’s adjusted gross income is $100,000, they will be contributing $3,000 to the fund. Likewise, if a person only makes $40,000, they will only contribute $1,200. If a person finds himself or herself unemployed, they are under no obligation to contribute to “Pay it Forward.”

    With the increasing burden of student loans, it may cause students to choose a major based on the salary, so this could be advantageous in encouraging students to pursue their dream career.

    Students across America need a breath of fresh air from the mound of debt that they’re buried under, and “Pay it Forward” looks to be just that.

    — Casey Knox is a sophomore studying journalism. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or via Twitter @knox_casey.

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