Pay It Forward Plan Draws Serious Criticism


July 21, 2014
by Suada Kolovic
When it comes to paying for a college education, it seems as though students have two options: deal with impossibly high payments while they're in school or crippling debt for years afterwards. Well, Oregon students were provided a third option last year when legislators approved the Pay it Forward plan that would allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out student loans but would instead commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state. It turns out, however, that said plan isn't the saving grace for college students afterall.

When it comes to paying for a college education, it seems as though students have two options: deal with impossibly high payments while they're in school or crippling debt for years afterwards. Well, Oregon students were provided a third option last year when legislators approved the Pay it Forward plan that would allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out student loans but would instead commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state. It turns out, however, that said plan isn't the saving grace for college students afterall.

First proposed by students at Portland State University, Pay It Forward has drawn serious criticism since Oregon passed a law to study the idea. According to a report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, analysis shows that the plan would leave most graduates deeper in debt than if they had taken out loans and would throw colleges’ balance sheets into uncertainty. Here are some of the more prevalent points in the association’s report but for a more detailed look, click here:

  • Pay It Forward does not account for non-tuition costs like room and board.
  • Students who generally rack up the most debt – those at for-profit and private nonprofit institutions — would not be eligible for the program.
  • The program would have “enormous” start-up costs.

Early estimates suggest that Oregon would have to take about 3 percent of a former student’s earnings for 20 years for it to work. With that being said, what are your thoughts on Pay It Forward? Do you think it’s too soon to tell if this is a viable option for other states to adapt?

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Amber B  on  7/21/2014 2:38:24 PM commented:

It sounds good at first after all is said and done this could mean trouble for the participating students. Taking 3% of student earnings could leave the student(s) in a bind because they have other obligations that they need to put their newly earned funds toward. Its an interesting program but rather than have it for all the years the student attends why not have for the first academic year. That way the student can get their bearings and won't have much to pay back to the school. Or better yet have it for a single academic year of the students' choice; since some academic years are more expensive than others.

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