In a bold progressive move, the Oregon state legislature passed a bill to allow students to attend state universities in Oregon tuition free.
Advocates of the legislation are calling it the “pay it forward” model. Students will be able to initially attend state universities free of cost. Upon graduating students will pay 3 percent of their paycheck for 24 years in order to help fund the program for future students. The model is partially based on the Australian model which has been fairly successful. Students will be able to enter college without the fear of being buried in debt by the time they graduate. Currently students who attend universities in Oregon graduate with an average of 24,616 dollars in debt.Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., gridlocked politicians allowed the interest rate on federal student loans to double from 3.4% to 6.8% -- a policy that progressive Senator Bernie Sanders called "totally absurd."
Despite the outrageous lack of concern by most politicians in Washington for America's debt-burdened students, it's encouraging to see that some states are leading the way to make higher education more accessible and affordable for all. The "Pay It Forward" tuition-free college education bill passed Oregon's legislature unanimously, and is expected to be signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber.
Although the bill only calls for a pilot program to be developed and studied before full adoption potentially in 2015, it's a step in the right direction. And given the exploding cost of college, politicians will find it difficult to turn back once this gathers steam.
"I feel as if the problem of student debt has reached a tipping point. It's on legislators' minds," said state Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland. "And I think it's on legislators' minds because it's on their constituents' minds. This is something we're hearing a lot about -- at the doorstep, through our polling, through our e-mail." ...Kudos to Oregon for taking this problem seriously and showing a path forward toward affordable higher education for all!
"This is going to happen because students demand change; I believe that firmly," said Steve Hughes, state director of the Oregon Working Families Party. "The conditions are just absolutely ripe for this. We've heard so many stories of student debt that are just beyond belief."