Higher education bills offer hope in Pa.

Lauren Williams's picture

Finally, the soaring costs of high education is getting the attention it deserves from politicians. President Obama vowed to shake up higher education during his recent bus trip to New York and Pennsylvania. The Oregon legislature recently passed unanimously a bill, "Pay it Forward," which authorized a pilot program allowing students to attend Oregon public universities tuition-free in return for paying 3 percent of their post- graduation earnings back to the state.

Two Philadelphia-area legislators, State Representative Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast Philadelphia) and State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/ Delaware) are racing to copy the innovative idea, albeit taking different approaches. Both are rising stars in the Democratic party who are running for Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz's seat.

Boyle plans to introduce a bill that mirrors the Oregon bill. His legislation would authorize a committee to study the costs and feasibility of implementing a pilot program based on the Oregon "Pay It Forward." His plan is to replace traditional sources of tuition funding, such as parents, scholarships, loans and wages, with a dedicated fund derived from mandatory payments of participating students starting after their graduation.

Boyle explained why his proposal did not offer a concrete plan rather than a proposal to study the issue. He said, "The 'Pay It Forward' bill passed the Oregon legislature unanimously. I am being pragmatic. I want to propose legislation that will pass."

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