“A debt-free college education”

That's the name of this opinion piece by Katrina vanden Heuvel. It piece says that, in the U.S., "[a]s of 2011, nearly half the students enrolled in four-year programs —
and more than 70 percent of students in two-year programs — failed to earn their degrees within that time, with many dropping out because of the cost.
They leave school far worse than they arrived: saddled with debt, but
with no degree to help them land a job and pay off the debt."

vanden Heuvel then endorses a new plan for college financing in Oregon:

Last month, the Oregon legislature passed a bill
that paves the way for students to attend state and community colleges
without having to pay tuition or take out traditional loans. Once Gov. John Kitzhaber signs the bill — as he is expected to do
— the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission will get to work
designing a “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” financing model, similar to ones used in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Under this model, students would pay nothing while in school. Instead,
after graduation, alumni would pay a flat 3 percent of their income for
the next two decades or so to fund the education of future students.
Those who attend for less time would pay a pro-rated amount. What
this means is that the state’s university system should eventually pay
for itself. College economics classes have always taught that “there’s
no such thing as a free lunch.” But students in Oregon may soon learn
that there is such a thing as a debt-free economics class.

Whether Oregon's higher-ed system eventually "pay[s] for itself" will depend, among other things, on whether a flat 3%-of-income post-graduate payment is sufficient and whether Oregon's plan ensures that most graduates actually pay up. It's an interesting idea that's worth watching, that's for sure.

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