HomeEconomic IssuesOregon Dems Pass Innovative Bill That Will Provide Debt-Free Higher Education!

Oregon Dems Pass Innovative Bill That Will Provide Debt-Free Higher Education!

Once upon a time, American college graduates had the world at their fingertips, choosing jobs and occupations in top-tier companies with excellent pay and outstanding benefits.  These days, not only do students have to deal with one of the worst labor markets in American history, they also have to deal with astronomical levels of crushing student debt.

While tuition costs for public universities have skyrocketed in recent years, funding for public education has dried up, leading many students to forfeit a college education or endure decades of paying back student loans with their inadequate salaries.

Fortunately, progressive Democrats in Oregon have come up with a solution that will allow students to attend public state universities tuition free!  The initiative, called Pay It Forward, will allow students to attend a two or four-year state university free of cost, in exchange for having 3% deducted from their post graduation paychecks for about 25 years.

The bill, which passed unanimously and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber, will direct the state’s Higher Education Commission to come up with a Pay It Forward pilot project to be considered by the 2015 Oregon Legislature.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle will be the $9 billion price tag of the programs initial cost, given the fact that initial students entering the program will be entering the labor force for at least a few years after their first semester.

Paying for future students will not be a problem, as money paid into the fund by the first batch of students will go towards paying for the education of incoming students.

‘‘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.’’

The Pay It Forward concept is based on a similar model used in Australia, where the program has been in place for over a decade with excellent results.

‘‘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.’’

The great thing about this program, is that, aside from the initial investment, it is self-funding and self-sustainable.

‘‘This is not a loan,’’ said John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute.  ‘‘You’re paying forward, essentially, so your contributions would enable the next generational cohort of students the same free access.’’

It’s about time that legislators start figuring out creative ways to help America’s biggest investment:  students.  When it comes time to bail out the banks or cut important regulations, our members of Congress are very creative at coming up with mechanisms that benefit multinational corporations and international banks.

While Oregon is the first state in the nation to employ the Pay It Forward model, legislatures in several other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Washington have expressed serious interest in implementing the program in their states as well.

It is imperative that the American left supports their efforts and helps maintain control of a public narrative that is sure to be poisoned by Tea Party anti-government ideologues who will undoubtedly deride this program as a socialist taxpayer giveaway.

Please do your part by sharing this and other related articles on social media forums.


Americans Against The Tea Party is a group committed to exposing the Tea Party’s lies, violence, racism, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, and corporatist fascist efforts to subvert our democratic process – and we are organizing to defeat Tea Party/GOP candidates on ballots everywhere.
  • http://gravatar.com/roninllc roninllc

    The reason why something this hasn’t been done before is because, as history has shown us, once you start making education available for everyone those people whose power base was made up of the uneducated, ignorant and gullible starts to crumble and those people are lucky if the Guillotine is the worst thing they get.

    The reason the US will not have a country wide version of this bill is because then, the Republicans, libertarians and Tea Party idiots, will lose their major source of support and their easy to abuse work/military force. One they lose that then its not long before the smarter newly educated masses sweep them out the door.

    Their biggest fear is that those people catch on and wisen up, and more accessible education is the first step to that.

    If you look at oppressive empires of the past they made education taboo, slaves of the USA and Surfs of Europe were denied simple educations and killed just for knowing how to read or write.
    Once those people gained rightful education they turned on their rulers and demanded equal treatment and today’s Conservitives are more concerned with stripping away equal treatment and rights in the interest of their wallets, though they claim to be doing the opposite.

  • TopherR

    The headline is inaccurate. This bill was pass unanimously in both houses of the Oregon legislature. Democrats and Repiglicans getting things done for the people of Oregon.

  • moyeti

    I suppose the older generation paying for the younger generation’s education is un-voidable, either way. At least now costs will be looked after a bit closer because gov’t $ is being used? Need to educate only the ones that can pass the entry tests too. So we don’t waste $ on sending Johnny to binge drink for 6 years. I see caps and more regs coming onto our younger folks. Also a private college boom. 2 tier University education system, here we com.

  • http://[email protected] Richard C. Graf

    Makes sense to me.

  • Dexxterx

    Australia and other countries have been doing this for decades. I don’t understand our country and what we have against having an educated populace. Or do you all want to continue to be outclassed by Asian countries where education is a priority? How could any supposed patriot want a country filled with non-competitive nitwits?

    • AATTP

      Could not agree more.

  • Artiesa

    Even on a $100000 a year earnings this is only $250 a month which is far less than most people owe monthly on student loans. People with student loans owe large monthly payments no matter how much money they make…whether $12000/yr or $100000/yr. I think this sounds line a great idea but there are definitely some unanswered questions that go along with it.

  • http://twitter.com/cali_chef Cali (@cali_chef)

    I don’t really see that much that’s “progressive” here. I see an educational financing plan based on Social Security. What’s to stop the politicians from “borrowing” the funds and then not repaying them and bankrupting the system, just like Social Security? I don’t like this at all when compared to, say, Denmark.

  • Harry J Marshall

    I would love Michigan to do the same. In Kalamazoo Michigan, all students who attend the Kalamazoo Schools get 4 years of education paid for through the Kalamazoo Promise. The democrats in Michigan are proposing a 2020 plan in which college education will be provided to it’s students. The Republican Party of Michigan are cutting education funding for our K-12 education and we pay more for corrections then higher education.

  • anonymous

    keep in mind that tuition is only a part of the cost of college. Most students will end up taking out loans to cover living costs, books, food, etc… so most students will have loans on top of the 3% coming out of their paychecks

    • TopherR

      SOME students MAY take out loans to cover those other expenses, but those amounts will be much smaller and their payments after graduation will be much more affordable. Seriously, a first grader could figure this out.

  • Seriously?

    Wait a minute, “debt free education”? This article says “tuition free” education and then says “in exchange for having 3% deducted from your paycheck for ABOUT 25 years”. How in the world is that considered free”if you’re going to pay for it for 25 years after you graduate?? And what does “about” 25 years mean? Is that plus or minus 10 years? What if you don’t get a job after you graduate, or get a low wage job, what pays for this program then? Everywhere I hear people saying that there are no jobs and no one is hiring, so how is a program like this going to be sustainable if you attend school for “free”, graduate and get NO job, and pay essentially no money back since 3% of zero is still zero? This looks like another unsustainable pyramid scheme, kind of like Social Security. Anyone looked at the national debt lately? $16.9 trillion, with Social Security and Medicare being the top two contributors, and Social Security funds projected to go dry in 2033. How about we stop trying to subsidize everything these days, just so that today’s generations can try to freeload at the expense of tomorrows? Maybe if we stopped trying to subsidize education, the universities wouldn’t be guaranteed all of this money and would be forced to decrease tuition costs. Is there something in this bill that keeps Oregon universities from raising tuition rates after the program is implemented?? As soon as they have all these kids coming into school at the cost of the taxpayers, what keeps them from raising their rates? The kids don’t think they’re going to be paying for it (except for that little 3% catch), so they’ll have no reason to shop around for affordable education, and UP the rates will go! This article is either lacking a lot of pertinent information, or this bill is seriously flawed. Good luck with this Oregon. Hopefully you implement it soon and watch if fail quickly, so that the rest of the nation is smart enough not to follow suit.

    • Seriously?

      I do like the way that the author says that Tea Party groups will “deride this program as a socialist taxpayer giveaway.” At least he’s smart enough to understand what this program really is.

      • Bob Cull

        Believe me, Seriously, no one is ever going to take you seriously except for other deluded Teapubs. How is this a “socialist taxpayer give away” when it had to be repaid? I know it hurts your head to actually think but maybe if you did it more often you could work past the pain.

        • Seriously?

          Well Bob, for one thing, this article leaves out a lot of information. Had to go search elsewhere for more information, and according to an AP story, after graduating “someone who makes nothing at all would contribute nothing to the fund.” So, for those who are unable to get a job after they graduate (which is EXTREMELY common these days), will not be required to pay anything back. And listen, the author was the person who initially and voluntarily suggested that this will be seen as a “socialist taxpayer give away”, not me. Now why would he even suggest that if it is anything but? So, there you have it Bob.

          • RichardR

            I could be wrong, but I’m guessing you’re one of those people Bill Maher was talking about when he said “People who read Ayn Rand are kind of smart, but not REALLY.” Are you listening to yourself? Are you seriously implying that after graduating college, a graduate is literally NEVER getting a job for the rest of his life? Guy’s going to walk out of school with Bachelor’s degree in hand, then sit on the couch for 30 years thinking “OK, that’s all I wanted to do.”

            Your statements come from the mind of someone who has a good memory for figures, but who doesn’t possess the mental processing power to understand them. Far from being a “socialist giveaway,” the fact that the time period of loan repayment is contingent directly upon salary will only encourage schools to offer better, more career-focused education to make sure they get the money back as soon as possible. I know Teapublicans have this hard-on against education, since God knows you don’t have to be educated to live in a log cabin in Michigan hunting and gathering deep-fried butter. Or spending the rest of your life working for MegaCorp, doing what you’re told and buying what you’re told to buy. But, please, try to bear in mind that there’s only so much room in the woods. SOME of us are going to have to stay in town where there’s electricity and medical care. We kind of need those things to advance the human race. More wild pigs and SUVs for you, though!

    • CJ

      “Maybe if we stopped trying to subsidize education, the universities wouldn’t be guaranteed all of this money and would be forced to decrease tuition costs.”

      You do realize that even if they DON’T implement such a thing…the tuition rates are still going to go up. They’ve been climbing for years upon years.

      • Seriously?

        So you’re suggesting the answer is to throw more money at the problem? If your faucet is leaking, do you fix it by adding more buckets? You’re absolutely right, costs have been climbing for years. Take a look at some charts showing increases in Pell grant funding vs. increasing costs of college tuition. There’s a remarkable correlation between how these two track nearly parallel to each other. The government throws more money in Pell grant pot, the colleges gladly take the money, and since the students have no responsibilities tied to the money, universities seem to have no problem increasing tuition which forces the government to: throw more money in the pot. It’s a vicious cycle. In the long run, Oregon will wish they had worked towards fixing the problem instead of just adding more buckets.

        There’s a reason a reason pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes are illegal. They’re unsustainable, and when they collapse, those who are participating at the time are left with a financial crisis on their hands. Also think about students who get themselves into this thinking they’re getting a “free” ride, and ultimately don’t graduate. Now they have no degree, and if they’re lucky enough to find a low-wage job, they’re still stuck paying the money back at the pro-rated rate for something they thought was free. I feel bad for all the women who will drop out of college because they needed to stay home to be single moms. The last thing they’ll need is the responsibility to pay money back for something they were told was free.

        • RichardR

          You know what? Just f**k off. Nobody cares what you think.

          • Seriously?

            What is it with liberals and cussing and name calling? Have you guys ever considered having an open-minded adult conversation?

          • RichardR

            Oh, darn. You’re right. It must just be years of frustration from trying to have adult conversations with people who are incapable of thinking like adults. I guess we just can’t help but cuss when, gosh dang-it, we just can’t find a way to reason with people who are too self-deluded to understand how stupid they are. I’m thinking maybe we should just hire the Teletubbies to act as our Teabagger liaison team. That would solve everybody’s problems. So sorry, Pumkin’-head :)

          • Bob Cull

            We try all the time but it is impossible to find a Teapub with and adult attitude let alone one with an open mind.

        • Deena

          I’m sorry, but you’re wrong about the pell grant here. That is federally funded & if you make more than poverty level, they don’t give you much at all. I know that bc I went back to school recently & applied for it & bc I was making $5K above the so called poverty line at the time without any dependents, they claimed I didn’t qualify. So not only could I not work as much as I needed to bc of classes, I didn’t receive sh*t from the govt until I had to work less to do better in school & made less $, only then did they actually give me some financial aid. That system & our country’s current system for education are Seriously flawed! Something Has to change now or this country is super screwed for its future.

  • AG

    Even if the plan isn’t perfect at rollout, at least someone is willing to think outside the box!

  • stef

    Is thete a certain amt. students will pay into the program after graduation, or is it strictly 3% /25 years no matter what? Is it available for students who relocate to Oregon? I’d like a more in depth story before making a decision.

  • Melissa

    What about those who have already went and gotten a degree? And what if you do not get a job after graduation? I’m 2 years post graduation and working dead end jobs just to support my family barely able to make it through with government assistance. The “career” type jobs are not hiring or want highly experienced even just a college degree does not gaurentee you anything these days. I’m lucky to make 12,000 a year! So those of you complaining about the government taking 3% from a 100K a year job when they pay for your college, I’m in thousands of dollars of debt paying for college with no job so I’d take this in a heartbeat if I had the option.

    • Seriously?

      If you strongly disagree with this article, they delete your comments. Wow, what a great website.

      • AATTP

        We just hadn’t approved it yet–but, by all means, don’t let the truth get in the way of your indignant paranoia.

    • http://twitter.com/cali_chef Cali (@cali_chef)

      Clearly, your question either does not apply to yourself, or you didn’t learn anything while you were there, which might explain those “dead end jobs.” If you really were among “those who have already went and gotten a degree” you’d have to give it back for that horrible grammar and poorly constructed sentence. That is all.

  • Vicki

    It sounds just like Social Security!

    • Bob Cull

      Vicki, HUH!? This is in no way like Social Security, not that Social Security is a bad thing as you seem to be implying.

      Social Security is a safety net, assuring that we retirees have a guarantee of at least some income. It would not even be in trouble if it wasn’t for the trillions that the government OWES the trust fund.

      This program, by contrast, is not a safety net or a spending program, it is an investment. Education never costs one penny in the larger picture, it is an investment that will, in the end, pay back to the nation as a whole much more than it’s initial cost. Investing in education is an investment in the future of the nation no matter who it is that makes that initial investment.

  • Bob Cull

    Once again Oregon show the rest of the nation how to think ahead and that there are alternatives to the old way of thinking. This is an idea that is perfect for the entire nation. It recognizes what so few right wingers understand, that education does not benefit only the person who obtains it but the nation and state as a whole. Let’s hope this is the first step in developing a new paradigm for advanced education in the whole country.

    • Jasmine Lyles

      They understand this just fine. They have more of an interest in keeping education out of the hands of those they deem unworthy. That’s really where it comes from. The media in mass needs to call bullsh*t and ask these religious nut jobs on the record “what would Jesus do?” since they seem to have all the answers.

  • Bob

    Do the math you people who want , but want to earn it…….you would be paying more for that piece of toilet paper with this program then a student loan….and I bet 2/3 of those who participate in this will default as well. Mr. Turpen has explained it in black and white, but you freeloaders still want yours but not have to work or earn it

  • http://www.facebook.com/MacAaron Aaron Turpen

    This is not “tuition free education.” 3% for 25 years isn’t exactly a great deal, nor is it “free.” The kid who walks out of school with a $40k a year job will still pay out about $30,000 in that 25 years, assuming no bonuses or raises. A kid who makes $100k a year will pay a total of $75k for that same tuition. Average cost of tuition at public Oregon universities right now is less than $22k and media household income is close to $50k.

    So how is this different than a student loan? Looks like a scam to me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/asanderd Amanda David

      But the thing is, it will make school accessible to EVERYONE regardless of income bracket. A homeless kid could go to school and not have to worry about tuition! That is awesome!

      • AATTP


    • Robin Bowles

      The math. I currently pay $750.00 per month in student loan debt, and I pay it religiously. If I paid 3% of my current salary, my monthly bill would be $177.49. A considerable relief.

    • aldo

      Really Aaron? Did you even research the Australian version of this program before throwing out your negative comments. With no viable solutions to offer?

    • http://www.thebeerlady.com/ AKA The BeerLady

      Yes, the comment in the article that says ‘tuition free’ is incorrect, although the title describing it as debt free is accurate. Aside from that?

      The deductions would be made from an individual’s income, but you quote the median household income. That could make a big difference in the amount of the payments.

      And while you were quick to point out that average tuition is $22K to compare it with your hypothetical incomes, you didn’t factor in the cost of interest on a traditional student loan. Borrowing $22K doesn’t mean paying back $22K, after all. And of course, a traditional student loan repayment isn’t based on the borrower’s income, it’s a flat payment. That $22K at 7% with a 10 year term comes out to $255 a month, and costs just over $30K. Or roughly the same amount that you whine about, but with far less affordable payments.

      Your hypothetical big earners aside, how many kids do you know coming out of college that are making $40K, much less $100K? If you’re making $100K, a $255 student loan payment probably is pretty affordable. It looks pretty different to someone making $25K.

      The plan’s not perfect (few things are) but it allows students to graduate without huge loads of debt that drain their bank accounts for years. And I imagine that if students think a traditional loan is a better bet, the state will be happy to let them pursue that option.

    • zeebanaybuh

      Aaron – Have you ever taken a math class, even in elementary school? Four years at 22k a year is $88,000, so even someone averaging $100k a year is getting a break. And that’s without even factoring in the debt isn’t amortized – I guess you’ve never had a mortgage either.

  • CJ

    Now what could make it even better is if they could grandfather those who already have finished college and have to face those loan payments. I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  • http://gravatar.com/latenightlarry latenightlarry

    Wanna bet that the RepubliCLOWNS and teabaggers will do everything they can to destroy the program? After all, they DON’T want educated kids entering the work force except at minimum wage, and they want to eliminate the minimum wage if they can.

  • zeebanaybuh

    Interesting concept, but how is it enforced? What happens if the graduate moves out of state? Out of the country? Or becomes self-employed, as is quite likely? How will the state track these kids as they move on with their lives? Can they compel the IRS to share information on those who have moved out of state? Lots of unanswered questions here.

    • aldo

      Research the Australian program for answers to your questions…

  • RichardR

    Damn right! Nice to see the American people really fighting back against corporate interests. It’s about time we show Wall Street who’s really in charge around here. Reload!

  • John

    This is a phenomenal idea! This is what progressive thinking is all about. Beautiful!

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