Free tuition a debt solution for higher education?

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Friday, June 6, 2014

Free tuition seems to be quite a hot topic in higher education as of late, and with good reason. With increasing tuition costs and fewer options for borrowing at fiscally responsible interest rates, states are feeling the burden of unpaid loans like never before. With student debt in the U.S. surpassing consumer credit debt for the first time in U.S. history, this $1.1 trillion dilemma has many states taking action to find a solution to the question: How can students obtain higher education, build a career and pay back their loans without it becoming a life-sentence?

Last summer, Oregon took a step toward offering free college tuition when Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill ordering a state commission to examine whether free tuition is feasible. The state legislature subsequently passed a bill that could dramatically change the funding of public education in Oregon. The proposed "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back" plan would eliminate tuition completely -- instead of paying upfront, students would sign up to pay the state a proportion of their income after they finish college. It will be a few years before anything goes into action, as the bill instructs the state's Higher Education Coordinating Committee to set up a pilot program for consideration by the state's 2015 legislature.

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