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Lose The Loans: Rethinking How Students Pay For College

Oregon is proposing a radical rethink on paying for college: Free while you’re there, maybe 3 percent of your income for 24 years after. We discuss one state’s stab at a national crisis.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, for the 2010-2011 academic year, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $13,600 at public institutions, $36,300 at private not-for-profit institutions, and $23,500 at private for-profit institutions. (CollegeDegrees360/Flickr)

According to the U.S. Department of Education, for the 2010-2011 academic year, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $13,600 at public institutions, $36,300 at private not-for-profit institutions, and $23,500 at private for-profit institutions. (CollegeDegrees360/Flickr)

The country needs a new way to structure and pay for college.

Just ask the graduates now carrying a trillion dollars in college debt.  Just ask the new high school grads and their families, struggling right now to figure out where to go, how to pay, without taking on a crushing burden.

And here comes a news flash from Oregon:  New plan.  No money down to attend its state schools.  Tuition-free while you’re there, then pay maybe 3 percent of your earnings for 24 years.

Sounds radical.  Sounds manageable.  Would it actually work?

This hour, On Point: Radically rethinking college and how we pay.

–Tom Ashbrook


Nathan Hunt, senior at Portland State University Student. He was in the seminar that originally presented the idea to Oregon state legislators, “Student Debt: Economics, Policy and Advocacy.”

John Burbank, executive director and founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute (@eoionline).

Sara Goldrick-Rabprofessor of educational policy studies and sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, senior scholar at the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education and co-author of “Putting Poor People To Work: How The Work-First Idea Eroded College Access For The Poor.” (@saragoldrickrab)

Jeff Selingo, editor at large at The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of “College Unbound: The Future Of Higher Education And What It Means For Students.” (@jselingo)

Interview Highlights

John Burbank on how “Pay It Forward” isn’t about paying back individual debt:

Our program is not really a debt instrument. You get access to higher education, and then after graduation, you contribute 3 percent of your income for 24 years in Oregon’s case. The point is that with our program you’re developing a higher education trust fund that enables the next cohort of students the same access. So you’re not paying off your individual debt; you’re paying forward to enable the next generational cohor the same educational access that you had when you went to college through “Pay It Forward.”

Nathan Hunt on the ultimate goal being access to education:

The idea is access. Even when kids are approaching college, when they’re in high school, they see that the doors are wide open. You do well in high school, you cross the road, you got to college. There’s no more mystique, there’s no more mystery, you just go. There’s not interest that’s going to be accruing on a principle amount, so it never runs away from you. If you have trouble finding a high-paying job, you can manage your payment to the state. If you have a high-paying job, you have no problems managing your payment to the state.

Burbank on the importance of avoiding crushing student debt:

If you come out of school, and your first job you’re making $30,000, 3 percent of that is $900. So you’re looking at something that is less than your cell phone bill per month. And that is the point; we want to make this manageable so graduates and new graduates can get on with their lives in terms of taking on responsibilities such as paying for their own rent or buying a house or paying childcare for their children or establishing their own 401K accounts for their own retirement. Right now debt is impinging on all those other factors, and so it is a real ball and chain around the ankles of recent graduates.

Burbank on rising tuition costs:

States have been underfunding and defunding public education over the last 15 years, so that tuition has replaced that funding now. So tuition is essentially a tax that replaces what should have come from general funds from state government.

Sara Goldrick-Rab on the problem with the “Pay It Forward” approach:

The reason that we’re in this mess has to do with the behavior and states and institutions of higher education and how they have failed to support the federal government’s efforts over the last 40 years to make college affordable. They have undermined our efforts with federal financial aid in many, many ways. And what this program does is, rather than address that issue really head on, essentially it charges students with the task of paying for future students. It asks the state to be nice and continue to contribute, but it does nothing to ensure that that will happen.

Goldrick-Rab on the real cost of college:

The first thing we have to return to is … about the other costs of attendance. Tuition and fees are only 40 percent of the total bill these students are facing. That’s the first thing you have to know. The vast majority of them do not receive Pell grants and therefore borrow to cover those other costs. They will very likely continue to borrow. They will therefore graduate with debt on top of this repayment.

Goldrick-Rab on college being more focused on the social:

A lot of university education, frankly, has gotten really far away from the educational experiences of our parents and grandparents. The education today focuses enormously on the social rather than the academic. And that may sound odd from a professor, but I live this, and I watch it everyday, and I study it. And if you look at where the allocations are going today, they’re not actually going very often to support students’ academic success. We can do more to focus our efforts so we can provide a high-quality post-secondary education to more people without asking them to repay for 24 years.

Jeff Selingo on low-income students:

I am a little worried about who we are trying to solve the problem for here. Sara talks a lot about low-income students, and I’m like her, most worried about them because that’s going to be increasingly the number of students coming to college in the next 10 years. We’re becoming a much more diverse nation … we are going to have more students of color coming to college campuses in the next 10 years, given the demographic shifts in this country, and there are going to be first-generation students and there are going to be poorer students.

What we should really be focused on is lowering the net cost for those students in the lowest income brackets, and I’m not quite sure that by just pushing off the paying of college 10, 20 years down the road that we’re necessarily going to help those students where we can in other ways.

Goldrick-Rab on taking longer to finish college and its effect on payment:

The fact is that the college completion rate in Oregon is 50 percent over six years. This will not be 3 percent for a bachelor’s degree recipients. It will be at minimum 4.5 percent because they take about six years, as I said, to finish. So there’s a bit of deceit here.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Oregon Explores Novel Way To Fund College — “As lawmakers in Washington remain at loggerheads over the student-debt crisis, Oregon’s legislature is moving ahead with a plan to enable students to attend state schools with no money down. In return, under one proposal, the students would agree to pay into a special fund 3% of their salaries annually for 24 years.”

The Los Angeles Times: Looking For A Solution To The Jump In Student Loan Interest Rates — “Interest rates on federal student loans double to 6.8%, but Congress could pass a retroactive fix. Democrats want a short-term rate extension while a bipartisan group seeks a long-term solution.”

PolicyMic: Is Oregon The State To Save Us From Crushing Student Loan Debt? — “The architects of the plan hope to get the pilot program up and running by 2015. One of the problems that they still need to solve is how to fund the program up until students educated under it graduate and begin to pay the 3 percent back. The state government would likely borrow the seed money, which could top $9 billion.”

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  • Duras

    Interest rates on student loans are nothing but taxes on working people!

  • 2Gary2

    Tax the rich and spread the wealth.  Tax the welfare queen corporations and make college free.  Tax the greedy to help the needy.  Tax financial trades to pay for free college for all.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      I have been trying to sell the idea of pushing for forced dividend payments to shareholders by profitable companies. This would be the best way to “spread the wealth”. Tax those dividends as ordinary income, but lower the corporate tax rate and the rate on individuals . By lowering the corporate tax rate, we would create incentives for corporations to bring production back home. When the “needy” finally come to see the light, that is, ownership of dividend paying companies is the way to help oneself acquire cash flow and economic security, we will be on our way to producing a vibrant and healthy economy.

      Gary, people must start to accept the fact that technology will continue to accelerate and eliminate jobs. Further, technology will make it more difficult to compete, via any type of education, with the coming of super intelligent machines. The world needs a new paradigm, a paradigm that will insure that money flows freely throughout the system. Try to imagine a fully automated production economy. How will money be transferred to those who need it, for survival? Having government, arbitrarily take from those that have, is not saleable, it is not fair, it is not ethical and has been tried before. It does not work (except in small measure). So many people are making the same conceptual mistakes over and over again. Break free from preconceived notions and indoctrination.

      The only valid arguable question is, “how much should a corporation return to its’ shareholders“? Stated differently, what should be the lawful minimum rate of return on earnings, that should be distributed, as “cash-cash “ to shareholders?


      • sickofthechit

         Why aren’t workers, and fair wages in your model?

        Until corporations start paying the workers their fair share of the last several decades of productivity gains and/or begin paying them with ownership stakes, workers will not be able to afford  to, as you say, “…finally come to see the light, that is, ownership of dividend paying companies is the way to help oneself acquire cash flow and economic security, we will be on our way to producing a vibrant and healthy economy.”

        Pray tell, where is their magic investment fund going to come from?  This weeks food budget, or perhaps we can live without the electric for a few days.  Get real.  We live in a country that now has perhaps the widest gap in wealth in its history.  The wealthiest 20% of the population now own right at 80% of the nation’s wealth.  That is, if not the tipping point, as near to it as you should wish it to be.  The bottom 50%, who you say should be investing in dividend paying stocks hold something less than 5% (I believe it is {corrections welcomed}) of our nation’s wealth.  The 20% did not actually earn much of their wealth, instead it came from manipulating the system for their and their heirs sole benefit.  They don’t really believe in the “free-enterprise” system, they believe in their “right” to take everything they can get away with.

        Charles A. Bowsher 

        • Wm_James_from_Missouri

          Charles, let me set the record straight. I am a blue collar working guy. I have worked long and hard for most of my life. Came from nothing, and even new a little hunger. Yes, really ! I am not saying that people shouldn’t be making more. I am trying to give people a method to provide the leverage they need. Nothing is easy in life, as you know. However, the road we are traveling is a dead end. The average American is in some kind of denial about their economic position. By forcing companies to pay dividends you would be forcing money into the economy, thereby, increasing the velocity of money. This increases jobs by creating demand. More demand allows for the possibility of higher wages. By taxing the dividends as ordinary income, more equitable taxation is created. Much wealth is created via compounding of reinvested dividends in a well balanced and diversified portfolio. By forcing dividends you would be making companies “ out gas” all of that money they are hording. Companies that have to “prove” themselves to their stockholders tend to be more honest. A law that forced dividends would also force competition for investment capital. I know you may not see it, but I assure you that I am on the side of the average American. Think, chain reaction !

          • red_donn

            With respect, economics are the issue and no amount of platitudes regarding hard work and tough times will overcome the math. Mandatory dividends will have exceedingly little trickle down effect apart from the possibility of marginally improving the upper-middle class investment income.
            It would also complicate investment strategies, etc. Just imagine the accounting and tax loopholes involved in deciding what mandatory levels are. The stock market is filled with enough irrational actions and short-term incentives as it is. I’d rather not waste the energy pursuing a wasteful and potentially counterproductive concept.
            Charles’ position, much like my own, recognizes that the vast majority of the economic value of the population is found in labor. Labor certainly does not appear to be compensated in proportion to its economic contribution – considered to be around 75% of total productivity.
            Addressing labor market issues such as information assymetry, voluntary collective bargaining, and wages based on productivity would do far more to correct actual issues in the economy. Many of these concepts have relatively simple fixes, such as setting wages as a proportion of business income. In addition, these mechanisms are based on attempting to correct market imbalances, allowing labor inputs to be compensated at a much higher rate according to their free and efficient market value.

      • 2Gary2

         I would submit to you that our problem is not economic but political.  Other countries, namely the Nordic, also face the new technology problem you espouse and they have dealt with it in a vastly more humane and fair way.

    • HonestDebate1

      That’s a recipe for disaster.

      • Shag_Wevera

        Why?  Wait, I know.  You’ll remove incentive for the rich if you tax them any more, so they’ll just become idle.  When they stop buying cars, mansions, and yachts, the rest of us serfs will lose are jobs.

        If you tax corporations, they’ll either pass the price along to the poor, or move to China or India.

        • NrthOfTheBorder

          Shag, ever run your own business? All conceivable expenditures are passed off a business expense reducing “profit” to the absolute minimum – and that’s what’s taxed. When the rich and corporations pay taxes, they can afford it. 

          • Shag_Wevera

            I was being sarcastic.  BTW, I’ve never run my own business.  I have less business acumen and entreperneurial spirit than perhaps anyone alive.  I’d love to see the rich heavily taxed, just see what would happen.

          • NrthOfTheBorder

            Sorry Shag I misunderstood. 

            I think the country needs to redefine what would constitute fair taxation.  For example If the rich can’t be taxed because they are “job creators” – so be it.  But then tax breaks should be extended for on-shore jobs they actually create and keep.  

            It seems to me the country is beset by three myths about wealth: 1) that unbridled capitalism is always better than anything else, 2) The rich shouldn’t be taxed because “you never know, I might be rich one day and I don’t want the government to take it all” 3) Americans with $1 in the bank still consider themselves middle class and equal participants in the American Dream. 

      • sickofthechit

        The unfunded, ineffective, ill-advised, TEMPORARY, Bush tax cuts were the original “recipe for disaster”!

        • HonestDebate1

          By 2007 an extra half trillion plus of extra revenue came in. 2007 still holds the all-time high revenue record of the universe. I’d call that funded.

          • Ray in VT

            And how big was the federal government’s surplus that year versus, say 1998-2000?

            Revenue was lower as a percentage of GDP than came in from 1996-2001, although higher than every year from 2002-2006, while at the same time federal spending as a share of GDP grew about 10% (18.2% in 2000 and 2001 to 19.7% in 2007).  It really is a tired argument.

            Face it, under Bush revenue as a share of GDP fell below the late 1990s levels, basically only just getting back to 1995-1996 levels just before the bubble popped, while major spending was undertaken.

          • HonestDebate1

            Revenue as a share of GDP averaged higher under Bush than during the Eisenhower 90% rate.

            That’s just another tidbit but all I am doing is rebutting sickofthechit’s implication. The tax “costs” were funded in as much as the word is even appropriate at all. Letting people keep more of their own money is not a cost. Also, the decade came and went so Obama extended them all. Then he went on to make them permanent save the top rate. So they are now the Obama tax cuts.

            If you want to debate the reasons for revenues, bubbles and GDP it requires a little more than citing the rate and who was President. But citing the extra revenue does indeed put to rest the idea the tax cuts were a huge expense that still beats us in the head every day. I think the was sickofthechit’s point.

          • Ray in VT

            Bush’s revenue rates as a share of GDP were lower than those under Reagan.  There are, of course, lots of factors that go into revenues aside from rates, such as deductions or loopholes.  The AMT was supposed to get rid of some of that rich people paying little taxes.

            “Letting people keep more of their money” while at the same time undertaking large spending measures, such as the Iraq debacle, is certainly unwise.  Cutting taxes and jacking up spending during throughout even supposedly good times after so much progress had been made in the 1990s was massively unwise.  Also, I did not cite the individual rates, which can disguise revenue, I cited the revenue as a share of GDP.  I think that sickofthechit’s point was that revenues declined, even in absolute numbers when one looks at FY 2000 versus FY 2001-2004.  A smaller share of a larger economy does little when one looks at the spending priorities of the Bush administration.

          • Ray in VT

            Also, if my income tax rate now is the same as when Obama came into office, then how is it his tax cut?  It would be better to call it the Obama tax rate.  He did temporarily cut my taxes via the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, the cost of which was I believe included in the cost of the stimulus (that having been roughly 1/3 tax cuts, which contributed, along with job losses, the 60 year lows in federal revenue collection as a share of GDP).

          • HonestDebate1

            Good point, all the belly-aching about tax cuts for the rich was bogus.

          • sickofthechit

             Perhaps you choose to keep on your rose-colored glasses and forget the unfunded wars (plural) and the trillion dollar Medicare Part D?  Where is that “extra” 1/2 trillion now?  I guess it is in Halliburton’s and KKR’s coffers….?

          • HonestDebate1

            Ah geez, now your moving the goal post, you were talking about tax cuts and revenue. The wars were funded and Medicare part D is the only measure in history to come in under budget. You are repeating the party line. Tax cuts, the wars nor Medicare part D are excuses for squat. Obama owns this.

      • 2Gary2

         and the current not taxing the rich and corporations their fair share is working any better? 

  • Quizzzical

    Why so little emphasis on the cost of college?  College costs have increased 3 fold in real terms since the 60s, while a typical middle class income has increased by 50 percent.  Just like health care services, the root of the problem is that the relative cost of these critical services has inexorably outpaced income growth over decades.  The left seems to have only one solution/policy – make someone else pay – and the right seems to have no solution.  How is it that every other industry has enjoyed fantastic productivity improvements, and thus affordable products and services for users/consumers, while education and health care are now unaffordable?  

    • TyroneJ

      I agree that College costs are out of control, and most of those costs have little to do with providing education or research, the core functions of a University. Derek Bok, former President of Harvard, years ago warned, in a manner analogous to Eisenhower, on how the University bureaucracies were out of control and self-serving. I see that at as a cost driver at every University.

      As for student loans, I think the most fundamental USEFUL reform that can be imposed on all student loan programs is to only loan money for attendance at non-profit institutions. The whole industry of for-profit so-called colleges is basically one of scams to suck on the government teat using students as the conduit. I’ve never encountered anyone with a degree from a for-profit college who had actually received a decent eduction from that for-profit institution. If the students of these for-profits even graduated, all they really got out of the experience was a lot of debt and the illusion of a proper education. (For those who don’t know, a for-profit college is exactly that, and is quite different from a private non-profit college like a Harvard, MIT or Yale.)

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        As a professor, can you describe to a bystander like me the difference between a legit “trade school” and a “diploma mill”?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1196843533 Jennifer Drouin

          If you contact employers who are looking to hire people with specific training that school claims to offer degrees in and they refuse to see or interview people from that specific school then you know it is a diploma mill.

          If the for profit school has no accreditation or an accreditation that no national professional organization in the field recognizes then its a diploma mill. Almost every profession has a national organization that encourages learning, best practices and a list of properly accredited programs.

          If the school advertises on television, on the subway or buses, on the back of magazines or in the special advertising section of a newspaper then they are most likely a diploma mill.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Thank you.

            Let’s just say I’m some years older than the people they’re trying to lure in. Have had some relatives who went to real trade schools ages ago.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1196843533 Jennifer Drouin

        The only exception I would find to some profit schools is if employers are paying their employees to take a certain class to gain very specific skills.

    • John Cedar

      You gloss over the fact that healthcare is a bazillion times better than it was 50 years ago while education quality has gone down hill. Just look at the grade inflation that had to take place in the short time between when GWB went to Harvard then when Obama attended and also today.

      The right has plenty of answers:
      Public union reform. (don’t allow them)
      Tenure reform (don’t allow it)
      Require all colleges to disclose how much each student pays to attend and how much of it is borrowed.
      Convert pension gravy trains to defined contribution plans
      Change “prevailing wage” laws to mean prevailing wage.
      Quit sending the dumb people to college.
      Downsize all the colleges…you can learn 90% of everything they teach from the internet for free, and bonus…the internet don’t have no accent.

    • Scott Bromley

      While the increase in college costs is deeply troubling, we cannot forget how much states have taken an axe to their education spending.  State governments for the past two decades argued that by slashing this spending to fund corporate tax breaks they were creating jobs…it’s your classic race-to-the-bottom economics run amok -and I’m speaking about our Government with a capital ‘G’, education is not a one-party issue, it’s an issue about which the nation pays too little attention.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I’d like to visit Oregon.  A little piece of humanity that is at least trying to advance.

  • John Cedar

    Its not fair to charge every student 3% of pay.
    The wealthy should pay 39% and phase out deduction of expenses.

  • sickofthechit

    Not to sound to unsympathetic, but when I went to school in the dark ages (the 1980″s) my interest rate on student loans was 7%.  I finished with about $12,000 in loans and a payment of $141.83 per month for ten years.  It took more than ten years  to  pay off.  I had to take a few deferments along the way. I did not have a new car, I was only earning like $14,000/year so it was tough, but doable. 

    I just can’t generate a lot of sympathy for students who choose an  expensive college, want to live off campus in an apartment, party all the time,  then are amazed when their part-time college job and summer work don’t cover everything and they actually have to pay back their “loans” they didn’t really understand….

    If you aren’t grown up enough to read the catalog of the college you are attending, let alone the fine print of loans being offered then maybe you need a little remedial, or real world education before you plunk down $15,000 to 20,000 annually for an education that most likely is not going to do the magic you expect.

    Charles A. Bowsher

    • Michael Bilica

       College costs have risen much faster than incomes since the 1980s, so being able to pay back the loan will be harder.  Even a “cheap” college like a public university will cost an average student over $20,000 now (only 40% more than what you paid, but you borrowed a lot for that era) , even though incomes in the low end (where you describe) have not risen by so much.


      Basically, tuition has risen by 400%, or 4 times higher between 1985 and 2005, and they have gone up some more over the past 8 years.  Meanwhile, incomes haven’t kept up, with the average income not rising at all and median incomes only rising by about 15%. 
      Considering college costs the youngest adults more than what they could earn in a year, it is too expensive!

  • ChevSm

    How about allowing individuals to deduct payments to federal student loans?  For example, if I make $70,000 a year and I decide to pay $30,000 of that towards my student loans then my taxable income would be $40,000. 

    It would give individuals some relief and it would allow them to put more of their income to paying off their loans faster.   

  • Sharynski

    And beyond Oregon:  We need to get to the crux of the current 1.1 trillion dollar student loan debt crisis ASAP.  People do want to pay back FAIRLY what they borrowed, but the system actually seems rigged to make it impossible — especially for those who are struggling financially but are making every good-faith effort to pay it off. Many debtors end up paying double or triple – largely due to excessive capitalized interest and also consolidation and/or rehabilitation fees – the initial loan they actually received to get their college degree. This seems really out of sync with the original mission of the student loan program. What is needed is a reasonable cap on the total amount paid back over the original loan.   And it is critical that needed reforms be enacted not only for present and future borrowers, but also retroactively to those currently in great financial distress and overburdened from their student loan debt. 

  • sickofthechit

    Now let me offer a solution.  U.S. Treasusry bills are currently paying something less than 2% I believe.  Why isn’t this country willing to “invest” in its own future by starting a Student Loan Program that is a “Saving’s Bond” type program that allows the American public to invest in “Education Bonds” that pay say 2% which creates a fund that is then loaned out to American students at say 4 or 5%.  Plenty of investors would be willing to invest.  The bond part could be run out of the Post
    Office since up until the second half or so of the 20th Century the Postal Service actually offered banking services as one of its core missions.

    Don’t waste your breath or prove your ignorance by claiming that the Postal Service is incompetent.  The only reason they are losing money every year is because during the first part of the Bush Administration the Republicans in congress passed a law that said the Postal Service had to pre-fund all it’s retirees future health-care at an accelerated rate instead of the actuarial rates that all other pensions use (or are supposed to).  It is just another attempt by republicans in congress to run the Postal Service out of business so it can be “Profitized” (trademark 2013, charles a. bowsher) like they have support services for the military, and in so many other areas.  Try mailing a letter across the country for 48 cents, or shipping a package and compare real world costs to their competitors.  They win hands down 8 or 9 out of ten times. 

    Charles A. Bowsher

    • Ellen Dibble

      I seem to recall that the Obama administration just pulled the carpet out from under the private funding for student loans, because, if I recall right, banks and their shareholders were making profits off students, where in fact it is a public good to have an educated population, so profit shouldn’t be part of it.  If the taxpayers can’t manage to get our population the skills they need for the current workplace, that is pretty sad.

      • sickofthechit

         Ellen, if the investments came from the American public it would be publicly funded, not privately.

        • Ellen Dibble

          I recall hearing complaints on PBS Newshour from those who had been the middleman in the deal getting cut out of it, and that was the private portion, as I recall, the middleman siphoning off a share, which the federal government thought was an unnecessary step.

    • geraldfnord

      I find it sadly amusing that the “Tea Party” people haven’t made our Postal Service’s survival a pet project, given that it (or something very much like it) is Constitutionally mandated—without any requirement that it be self-supporting.

      It’s not surprising, as the literal interpretation of the Constitution as an [all-but-]divinely inspired document lends itself to the same vices as that approach to Scripture, e. g. idiosyncrasy, ignorance of context, proof-texting (cherry-picking you don’t accept) …with less excuse, as late Eighteenth Century English isn’t _that_ hard to pick up.

  • NrthOfTheBorder

    High interest rates on student loans is yet another example of the US is eating its seed corn.  

  • TomK_in_Boston

    While we need to keep rates low now, the long term solution is to return to pre-voodoo economics, when states had a commitment to support State Universities. With nearly free higher public education a given, private U tuition was also kept down. That’s the American way.

    The priority now is to keep taxes low by cutting state funding, and making up the difference with tuition. That’s the problem. Univ of VA has 8% state funding. Some random data: U of Washington state support from 82% to 51% in 23 years


    This one shows the direct connection between state cuts and tuition increases at Cal State


    and an average over the USA


    Nothing could be clearer, but I think a lot of middle class parents don’t see that their tax cuts lead directly to their kids horrendous tuition and student loans.

  • Rick Evans

    Will high wage earners be able to pay off the imputed underlying debt thus opt out of “paying forward” into the trust fund the state is trying to build? If yes it sounds like this puts a higher burden on lower earning college grads.

    Also, will non-college grads be taxed to benefit this privileged group?

  • ToyYoda

    Wouldn’t this lead to an adverse selection problem like we have with medical insurance?

    Meaning students who plan to go into low paying careers (like social work) would benefit most from this program, but students going into higher paying careers may end up paying many more times the cost of their tuition?

    Just wondering.

    • Casey Reyner

      But this is a solution to that problem in the reverse.  Right now someone who goes to school to be a social worker is saddled with the same cost as someone studying for a higher paying career. This system will see that they both pay the same percentage of their future earnings. At least that is my interpretation.

      • ToyYoda

        Right, so I would think that the higher job  student would not want to take part in this program.  They may go out of state or private school, because they don’t want to subsidize the tuition of the social worker.

        You may end up with mostly students in the program getting jobs that barely miss repaying their tuition. And eventually bankrupting the program; hence adverse selection.

        (By the way, I’m not criticizing or praising the program.  I’m just wondering about the unintended consequences.)

  • GarretWoodward

    I went to a private northeast university. Was told “do well in school, get into a good college, get a great job.” That was in 2003. A decade later, I stand here wondering what that advice was all about? Worked hard, got into great school, no jobs thereafter, with college debt. I always tell my friends “Sallie Mae” is my girlfriend…always taking my money, always wanting to know where I am…I say Oregon has a great idea here…

  • hotlinexpress

    Oregon’s idea is good, yet there are flaws.  1.  what if you dont ever find a job?  Oregon loses.  2.  What if you find an extremely high paying job (doctor/engineer).  The student loses. It seems that this option has the potential to help and hurt, depending on what end of the spectrum you find yourself on. For students who believe that they will have the ability to pay a standard loan, they may have a massive advantage in their financial future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1281723314 Joan Johnston

    How does the financing compare to the student loan default rate?

  • Henry Smith

    Hello Tom,

    Thank you for letting us respond.  I have been a lifelong advocate of college education and low interest rates, but I am against the Pay It Forward-Pay It Back method, because I feel that having no immediate cost would invite a lot of bad students into college.  If I went to college with the same rude, misbehaved, unmotivated students that were in my high school, the quality of my education would suffer.  College needs some financial barrier to protect the earnest nature of the education.  Perhaps a better method would be a combination of low interest rates on loans and pay-it-forward.

    -Research Analyst from KY

  • Yar

    What about two years of public service? Work and learn skills while serving the public.  A better way to pass on the value of work to the next generation. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.carberry.14 John Carberry

    Will this cause colleges to continue their “no end in sight”  price increases? Dollar has inflated about 8x in past 50 years and college costs have risen about 25X.  Buyer push-back needed.

  • plr01

    This is not a new idea.  When Bill Clinton was running for President, he proposed this.  It quickly got swept under the rug as soon as he was elected.  I don’t think that was his fault.  I think it met a lot of resistance.  Personally, it seems like such a simple and obvious a solution to the student loan problem that it amazes me that it’s now being talked about as if someone just had a brainstorm.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    “First, I don’t think Americans and American students are slackers.”

    John Burbank isn’t going to get on “Meet the Press” or its ilk any time soon with that attitude. (And I mean that as a compliment.)

  • plr01

    The guy who’s worried about so-called “slackers” taking jobs in comic book stores?  That’s perfectly OK.  One of the points of this idea is that it separates college from career choices.  Go to school to learn.  Then do what you love, or at least what makes sense to you.  If you make a lot of money — you pay back in spades.  If you don’t make a lot of money — fine, you got to go to school at a steep discount.

    • msully72

       But why should people taking better paying careers subsidize those who get a degree for the hell of it?

      • plr01

        Well, actually, most of the lower payed beneficiaries of this plan would probably be in jobs like nursing, teaching, day-care, non-profits, or the arts, to name a few.  We all benefit from all of these people.  What’s more, I think we need people to follow their passions in life, and that can and probably does mean spending a few years in college.  If this college financing plan lets people do that without putting them into crippling debt, it improves our whole society.  If you want to think of this as a “subsidy”, fine.  There’s a least partial answer to your question.  Though I disagree with your whole notion of subsidizing here, and I find your use of the phrase “for the hell of it” fairly disrespectful.

        • msully72

          Instead of ‘for the hell of it’ how about ‘for people who went to college because they were told they have to go to college to succeed, but have no idea what they want to do with their lives and may not end up using that degree at all’?

          As for the subsidy notion – it’s a rather simple economic concept – if people in higher paying careers pay more than the costs of their education while people in lower paying careers pay less, that’s a subsidy – whether you like that notion or not.

      • sickofthechit

         Because each day we all have the same amount of time…..

  • Trudie

    Higher education is just like health care based on cost shift….my daughter attends a great private liberal arts college who has need blind admission and meets 100% of need. We do have to pay and she has federal loans..but the cost of her attending this college with a cost of $56,000.00 a year is less than if she went to the state university in Vermont…the whole system needs an overhaul..not sure this is the way to go.I want my daughter to go to the best school for her and her needs not be “stuck” attending a school that does not meet those needs.

  • creisser_ne

    States are negligent in not funding their public colleges and universities.  Here are the resident undergraduate tuition rates per credit hour for my college, the University of Nebraska at Omaha at ten year increments since 1970:

    1970 = $15.00    1980 = $26.50       1990 = $45.25
    2000 = $79.75    2010 = $170.50

    The tuition increases have been greatest during the administrations of the past two Republican governors – Johanns and Heineman.

    I am a 1969 graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and was one of four students who represented our institution as a “varsity scholar” on the General Electric College Bowl in 1967.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Exactly! State cuts in funding of State U to keep taxes low is the problem. When I graduated from UCLA in the 70s it was $75/qtr, BECAUSE UC had almost 100% state support. The tuition hikes that lead to the loans go right into the pockets of the romney types.

  • Jim

    Here is my best advice to low income students. note, i would not say this ten years ago due to ethics. but since there is no such thing as ethics in this country due to such lopsided biased towards the rich and upper middle class, I would highly recommend that you working class folks make every attempt to cut corners…. cut all corners you can get or provide to you.

    Lastly, remember to help fellow working class students in the future when you become professionally successful.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      I just generally recommend that folks (of all strata) think like they’re rich. In this case, you and I  would end up giving low income students the same advice, it seems.

  • richard glenister

    This does nothing to answer the question about return on investment for any public funds for college education.  This is just a way for colleges to avoid the fundamental question about the value and how many college grads we need.

  • GarretWoodward

    It’s pronounced “Or-Ah-gin” not “Or-Ah-gone”…

  • JF

    I think this is a great idea.  I’d venture that it may help to control the cost of college because (1) colleges could plan better its future income and (2) it incentives colleges to control spending since they know how much money they are getting.  It will also make public colleges more attractive vs. private colleges which will only get more expensive.  My question is how earnings are defined?  Only salary or other investment income (probably not much initially but could get higher when one works longer).  I can help but worry that people will “game” the system by shifting their income (am I not hinting hedge fund managers?)

  • Yar

    Berea college in Kentucky has sort of been doing this for over 150 years.  One place they are different is that they chose their students.  By choosing the student with the most potential they have a much better chance of being able to contribute back to the college once they graduate.  Berea is a tuition free college.

  • John Roberts

    Trying to get what you can’t yet afford is what sunk this country into debt. What ever happened to earning money for tuition and room & board BEFORE & WHILE going to school?
    I supported myself & a girlfriend while getting my undergraduate degree without $1 of assistance or loans: no vacations; no ‘toys’; no car; living ‘on-the-cheap; taking any & all work I could get my hands on (that most people wouldn’t touch).
    Once I got my degree & a good job, I did the same thing for my graduate degree. For a decade, my life was nothing but work & study. OK, I didn’t go to my ’1st choice’ universities, and my GPA suffered, but I did it debt-free without a hand-out from anyone.
    Why is it assumed that the only way to get an education is to borrow money?

    • adks12020

      I’m curious, when did you graduate from college?  My graduate education cost me $38,000.  At my salary at the time there was absolutely no way that I could’ve paid for that as I went or saved nearly enough to pay much of anything unless I wanted to wait at least 5 years to go to school which is a huge detriment if you are trying to move a career forward.

      I worked full time during undergraduate and graduate school and made no where near enough to live a healthy life and pay for school while I went. I paid for as much as I could but it wasn’t enough.  Most people are in the same boat.

      So again, did you graduate recently? My parents didn’t have any debt either but they graduated when school was much cheaper and many more employers reimbursed tuition.

      • John Roberts

        College diploma: 1972, Bachelors: ’76, Masters ’80. I worked part-time days, full-time nights & weekends + drove a taxi during spare hours; worked 2 jobs during the summers & took summer courses.
        In 1970 minimum wage here was $1/ hr.  It’s now $9/hr. Tuition has not risen 9-fold since 1970. Neither has rent or food.
        It’s a matter of choice & lifestyle: unfortunately, most universities promote & sell lifestyle.

        • adks12020

          I’m sorry but you are totally wrong. College costs have risen at far above the rate of inflation for the last 3 decades. Wages, however, have barely budged for lower and middle income people over the same time period.

          My parents did the same thing you did at almost exactly the same time (they are 63). They were both able to leave college without debt as well. They were also both completely shocked at how much more expensive college was for my brother and I when we went.

          I ate PB&J and Kraft Mac N’ Cheese almost every day (luckily I worked in restaurants and was able to eat at work sometimes); I barely spent any money that I didn’t have to; I lived in apartments some people couldn’t be paid to live in and I still didn’t have enough money for all the costs of college.

          Long story short, it’s not the 70s anymore and things are a lot different.

  • toc1234

    why not get a student on the line and ask her how much she pays for student loan each month relative to what she pays for cable/internet/starbucks/car pmt/ect.. each month.  also ask what she studied and whether or not she considered the return on investment for her tuition…

    • John Roberts

      Exactly! The ‘Entitled Generation’ want it all & they want it NOW… w/o any saving or sacrifice or a cohesive plan.

      • Trudie

        My daughter will be starting her sophmore year and we have cut everything..no cable, no smart phones no home phone, only have internet as I work from home, she is an RA and has a workstudy job…banks her $ and is paying interest on her federal loans as it comes due..and she knows that she needs an education in order to even stand a chance..not every student is as you describe….

  • Joanne Brown

    I’d have to point out that there already is a great public clamor for increased public investment in higher education. This is not happening. Why will this help?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.apel Alex Apel

    This is an idea that punishes students that take on high paying careers early in life and select diplomas based on market need. This program would result have forced me to pay three times more than I do now at my current rate of pay, and I have 22 years of raises left in this 25 year plan. I’m not interested in paying for Music students to get expensive degrees and then work at target for the rest of their lives(I know such people). How about having the state pay for people to get degrees the economy actually needs and let everyone else pay their own way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/logan.jones.129 Logan Jones

      From each according to his ability, to each according to his need  – Karl Marx

  • Wahoo_wa

    The language used on some these stories is really inaccurate and misleading…and it’s a problem because it changes the mentality by which we develop attitudes toward consumerism.  The other day it was something about the “sharing economy” when, in fact, it’s not sharing but loaning items for a fee (so let’s call it the “renting economy” and acknowledge that this renting is an indication that there is little prosperity that would allow for purchase).  Now the abstract is stating that college is “free while you’re there.”  It’s not “free”.  Students are borrowing and there is the responsibility to repay the loan.  While the loan repayment at 3% is lower than the income based plans this is FAR FROM a “radical rethink on paying for college”.  Even the period of repayment is the same as the income based plan.  

  • HonestDebate1

    I just don’t get it. What is the matter with borrowing only as much money as you can reasonably expect to earn from your investment? 

  • truegangsteroflove

    This can be seen as a good idea if you are holding the rest of the system constant. In other words, this takes the existing condition of “conservative” starving of the public sector as a given, unchangeable reality of “American” life.

    There was a time when higher education was fully funded. There was tuition, but a college education was affordable. Starting in 1980 a concerted effort to disparage the public sector was brought to the national conversation in an aggressive and demagogic manner. That effort continues to this day, using the slogan “starve the beast.” Anything government is the beast, except when it enhances the power and privilege of the already rich and powerful.

    At some point someone with a voice people will listen to will ask the question “Do we want to have a society?” If we answer yes, then we start doing what a society does.

    • Wendell and Sally Barrick

      Everyone seems to think there have been drastic cuts in spending for education.  As a percent of GDP it did level off in about 1980 but there had been steep increases in the preceding decades.


      • sickofthechit

        Part of that is because there were steep increases in the numbers going to college.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.e.cunningham.75 Mary Elizabeth Silverthorn Cun

    This is especially great for being an incentive to provide value to our society.  If you plan to major in making lots of money you can choose to borrow but investing in our students is investing in our future.

  • toc1234

    perhaps explore how college tuition could double in 15 yrs (I paid 25k in 90s and now its near 50k).  could it be all the new high-end dorms my college put up?  perhaps its the new dining halls that are like 4 star restaruants?  or what about all the new (soft )academic depts that have popped up in last 25yrs?   or just how bloated all the dept have become? 

    maybe a big part of the solution is take a look at campus life and the course catalogue of, say, 1990, and use that as a model?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Lerner/847835149 Richard Lerner

    Why wouldn’t society want to pay for an educated society? These are the people that are going to be operating on us, advocating for us in court, running our businesses, teaching our children. Even Milton Friedman was a huge supporter of public funding of education. Moreover, educating our children (and 18 year olds are still unformed) is a moral imperative.

  • Somebodytookmyname

    All interesting ideas, but what’s missing is a discussion about controlling costs. College costs have accelerated far faster than most other costs over many years. Why? Too many assistant deans and other non-teaching staff.

  • BWalsh

    When your guest says the average student who graduates leaves with $32,000 debt is he including in this group the students who leave with no debt?  I would like to know that the average student WITH DEBT leaves with that number, but I am not convinced that this is true.  

    • Frank Rojas

      At major schools maybe half the students leave with debt. So you can cut that number in half for an overall average. And the median is MUCH lower than the average as that is skewed by high debt of people going to Med school etc–but they end up just fine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/logan.jones.129 Logan Jones

    I am a recent college grad and have seen many first-hand accounts of people with a newly received Bachelor’s degree not able to find a job. A college education does not carry as much potency as it once did a generation ago. Looking at the proposed program in Oregon which has for its end-goal to open up accessibility even more, I foresee a greater reduction in the value of the letters after your name. Furthermore, having sat though 4 years of college, there are some people who quite frankly are not “college material”. Those individuals attend because society expects it but they are personally driven which is a disrespectful to themselves for they may or may not get a degree in the end that they never were passionate about in the first place.Finally, one thing that I would like to hear addressed is if this is also going to be applied to graduate programs. Many of my cohorts who have not been able to find employment in the field they studied have had their hand “forced’ and pursued a master’s or doctorate because they saw no other way to meaningfully fill their time.

  • toc1234

    part of the increase in tuition is going to pay prof like Liz Warren 350k to teach one course…. just for example…

  • Claire McKenna

    What I haven’t been hearing is how ambiguous college payment is to high school students choosing a college. Through the dramatics of application and acceptance during senior year, the issue seems to get lost. It was not clear to be that, upon entering college in 2006, I would end up $80,000 in debt if I went to a private institution or perhaps much less if I went to a state school. (I just heard on the program that the average student debt is $30,000) I wound up at an Ivy League school utterly unaware that this would mean hefty and at times unmanagable repayment for me over the next ~15 years. Was this my fault for being naive, or is the reality of higher education debt not well not well communicated to high school students?

  • Ellen Dibble

    If college education were available as a citizen right, the way high school is, I am sure I would have approached my choices differently.  Parents who won’t pay for needed graduate education wouldn’t be part of the equation.  On the other hand, I might have felt less pressure to learn what the job market demanded (courses in teaching itself, back then, “education” courses, since women mostly became teachers), but I also felt free to major in things that were not oriented towards profitable jobs, religion and history.  If the college were aiming me towards the most profitable 3% return, I doubt they’d offer a whole lot of comparative religion for one thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deborah-Moore-Knittel/100001081886028 Deborah Moore Knittel

    I listened to your program hoping to hear how the Oregon Pay Forward program would support providing graduates to fill much needed jobs that while requiring a college degree pay so little that graduates are never able to pay back their loans. Some talented people leave the fields of social work, the arts, teaching and child care, and so on  in order to take jobs that pay more even if there is less personal fulfillment. I did not hear enough about how this program or an alternative increases the number of trained, educated and talented people to move our country forward. It was all about how the education is desirable because it increases the opportunity for a higher paying job. How do we support our young people in a way that ultimately supports our nation and its citizens?

  • BostonDad

    Although not perfect, this IS fair !  Those whose only motivation is money will pay the same rate as those who want to improve our world.  Just like Income tax, which we mostly if grudgingly admit is a fair concept !  (replacing the current crazy tax code is a different discussion)
    There IS a de-incentive to time wasters (a significant ‘mortgage’), but not to teachers, social workers, creative people, etc.
    Please extend it to Grad School !  Just one example:  AVERAGE Medical School debt is over $250K.  So Docs have no incentive to help the needy or be generalists or pediatricians (lowest paid Docs) and every incentive to go into cosmetic surgery (which by the way helps trauma, cancer patients etc. too).  THIS would provide balance to get all the specialties and generalists we need!  Ditto nurses.
    Believe me, as a non-tenured lowly Asst. Prof. even at Harvard, salary is NOT my motivation and indeed I have to bring it all in myself.  Top heavy non-teaching non-research Administration IS a problem, vastly expanded since the days when college was affordable.  Institutional, local, and federal bureaucracy are redundant, self-sustaining and increasing behemoths which should be cut big time !

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1196843533 Jennifer Drouin

      Since many of the full time professor positions have been replaced by adjunct professors who are paid only for the classes they teach, usually limited to two so they are part time without benefits, they have no incentive to go above and beyond the classes they teach since they will not be paid for their time. Hence, administrative positions have had to be created to fill in the gap for things full time tenured professors used to do. Administration is not the problem lack of government support for higher education is. In most of Europe higher education is subsidized and those who get into university and are able to stay in pay no more than $1,000 a year in tuition and fees.

      Administrators work directly with students in the fields of Academic Advisement, Judicial Affairs, Residence Life, Career Development, International Student Affairs and though they may not give out grades they are most definitely teaching and researching.

      In addition those administrators working on development, alumni affairs and conferences are the ones bringing in money to the college or university.

      • BostonDad

        True enough, and state reductions are bad too, BUT why are there so many times more now than when college was affordable ?

  • msully72

    I realize there has been a decrease in state support of public universities, but beyond that have there been any studies as to where the increases in education costs have come from?  Anecdotaly, schools seem to be actually cutting the cost of teaching by hiring adjuncts.  How much is the amenities race a factor in cost? Personally I don’t think publicly subsidized schools should be allowed to compete with private schools on amenities -cost should be the reason to attend a public school.

    Additionally, I do think there should be *some* market influence as to what degrees students study for.  I realize technical and scientific degrees might incur more costs, and I have no problem charging those students for those costs directly (at UMass we had lab fees there were at least an attempt at that).

    I know a common argument is that people who study the humanities develop critical thinking skills, but in my experience a college education is neither necessary or sufficient to develop those skills.  I’m also disappointed that there’s so little talk of breaking out of the ’4-6 years of full time study’ model of learning skills – especially those that aren’t tied to job prospects.  There are other ways to learn, and breaking the ‘credentialism’ mind set we’ve developed over the past several decades could be the best way of reducing education costs and debt.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Since A. Lincoln had the amazing vision to establish the land-grant colleges during the depths of the civil war, the idea was that they would be essentially free. The #1 problem is that the tax cutters have broken the compact.

      You are right that there are secondary reasons for increasing costs. One is the skyrocketing numbers and salaries of administrators. Adjunct faculty are cheaper, but you can bet they ain’t hiring any adjunct deans, provosts, academic vice presidents, or the staff assistants these exalted persons require.

      Across the board in USA, seems the more you actually contribute to the mission, the less you’re valued, and vice-versa.

  • Shag_Wevera

    Just a thought to all those boot strap/responsibility/return on investment types…

    Yeah, I remember the Chinese student who lived down the hall from me in my college tenament.  He had a wife and three kids and they lived in a tiny 1.5 bedroom dump.  He worked all hours and went to school.  He somehow managed to cram a piano into the place and made his kids practice everyday.  His dress was that that of a hobo.

    In one sense, this guy was a true warrior.  In another sense, I wanted an AMERICAN college experience.  I wanted to study, date, party, and eat copious amounts of pizza and drink lots of beer and coffee.  You’ll have decades to be miserably and gainfully employed.  Gotta live a little in college!

    End note:  I graduated with a major and a minor and a gpa of around 3.5.  My loans were paid off in about 5 years.  Graduated in 1994.

  • tbphkm33

    This is actually a good idea, for an industry that needs fresh thinking – yes, higher education is an industry.  Although, this is only one slice of the larger issues facing the education industry.  We need reform on a number of other fronts.  Such as institutions, even public universities, who are saddled with debt from building luxury facilities (even dorms) in a false quest to keep up with other institutions.  That behavior has to stop and consideration should be given toward alternative business plans for the luxury facilities to be spun off the institutions.

    Deeper is the issue of institutions graduating students into non-existing fields or fields that are saturated.  Should every school have an evening MBA program?  How many history PhDs does the world need?  Institutions should be forced to focus on the fields where they excel, instead of being everything to everyone.  

    There is also large staff issues associated with educational institutions.  In many ways overpaying and under utilizing staff.  Tenure should be looked at, not for scientists where they truly are so specialized that there is a need for the security of tenure.  Yet, why are staff in practical fields, such as librarians or business professors tenured?  Tenure in its existing form is something the higher education industry cannot afford.

    My last point is with the quasi-parasitic higher education support industries.  Publishing being the first to come to mind.  An industry that have representatives scour campuses to sell professors on the use of their books in classes and to solicit professors works for publication.  An industry that pays the professors little to nothing for their works, yet charges students exorbitant rates for the books their classes require.  The States and Federal Government should band together and create a non-profit publishing imprint focused exclusively on higher education.  Where profits from works can be passed on to students and provide professors real added income.  Where the best works can flourish, not just the works by authors willing to turn their work over for no reward.  A non-profit that could even reward the best professors, leaders in their fields, with year long sabbaticals devoted exclusively to produce high quality books to be used in classrooms throughout the educational industry.  

    The higher education industry has over the past 30 years developed into an economic bubble, much like the housing bubble.  Just that this is a bubble society cannot afford to implode.  It will take creative thinking to move the education industry onto a sustainable path. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sean.A.Cone Sean Cone

    Nice idea, but Oregon will soon find  out that they are subsidizing mainly liberal/fine-arts students educations (with low, erratic earning potential) while the students with real earning potential (business, engineering, practical things like that) opt for traditional financing options. I don’t think this is going to work in the long run, but it would be an interesting experiment.

  • Wendell and Sally Barrick

    I think the discussion on availability and interest rates of student loans is terribly misguided.  Whatever happened to the concept of “working your way through school”?   When I was in school I worked about 50 hours a week making less than minimum wage, my wife worked part time at a public library.  It might have taken a semester or two longer, but I graduated with no debt – for which I have been everlastingly thankful.

    • tbphkm33

      Have you seen the unemployment rate for young workers with only a high school education?  Or the wage compared to living costs?  Or the true cost of college today?  The idea that an individual can work a minimum wage job and pay for college today is pure fantasy.  It might have worked in 1973, but not in 2013. 

  • Lauren DuRocher

    I am interested in understanding how the program would adjust for the number of years of education people get. Many do not end up graduating from college. After one year of school or part-time education would students need to pay the same amount as those who go for many years?  

    • msully72

       I believe one of the guests suggested that someone who didn’t finish would pay a smaller percent for the same time period.

  • Sy2502

    I don’t get it, if I can’t afford something I either make a loan to buy it or I just don’t buy it. It applies to houses, it applies to cars, it applies to everything… except apparently college. Why?

    • jefe68

      I guess if you lived in Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany and Norway you would be confused.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Why? Because education serves the common good. Because of that, we decided that State Universities would provide free quality public higher education, and it helped fuel our middle class miracle. Rising tuition at State U is strictly a post-Reagan disease. 

      • jefe68

        There lies the rub. It would seem by the bulk of the comments on this thread and any other about subjects that deal with the common good of society, that a fair percentage of conservatives do not believe in the idea. The idea that decent education should be affordable or supported by taxes, is abhorrent to the right. The same meme about socialism will be aired just as it is when health care the topic. Education like health care should be about the common good.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          I agree.

          The most frustrating thing is that they don’t realize that what they regard as socialism is usually not some radical new agenda, but what we used to take for granted as the great American system.

      • Sy2502

        How does college education serve the common good? The common good is not served by having only lawyers and doctors (here’s where the Left’s elitism rears its ugly head. If you don’t have a college degree you are a victim and need help). Society needs all sorts of skills and not all of them are college skills. Thinking skills are what serves the common good, and you don’t learn those in college.

  • Michael Williams

    With Student Loans at $1 trillion ($350 billion in 2004) @ 3.4% what would the growth curve look like @ 6.8%? If it continues at the current rate, it will implode, leaving future students with no Loan options,, if that happens (according to experts) 30% of the Universities that have been around for hundred’s of years will close due to lack of students. World Mentoring Academy (MOOC) offers Free 1,100+ courses in a Learning module system and has 170+ courses offering Univ credit from the College Board, Fed Gov, NYU, TECEP, ECE test out & transfer options.(testing fee $80/course paid to CB, Fed Gov, NYU etc). With the state of the future of the US and other countries we need as many tools as possible.

  • http://synapse9.com/signals Jessie Henshaw

    I think there’s a definite problem for a society devoted to education, as a way to prosper, that just doesn’t pay any real attention to the basic science, for why our economy is running out of money.   

    It’s that in order to have compound returns on investment, i.e. to grow by leaps and bounds and afford more and more stuff exponentially, we need to find some more earths.   We’re just coming up short on finding extra earth’s rich with materials to consume ever faster.   

    So we’d need to switch to a “live within your means” financial system and economy, instead of a free for all “let’s keep doubling” kind of financial system and society…


  • Michael Williams

    With Student Loans at $1 trillion ($350 billion in 2004) @ 3.4% what would the growth curve look like @ 6.8%? If it continues at the current rate, it will implode, leaving future students with no Loan options,, if that happens (according to experts) 30% of the Universities that have been around for hundred’s of years will close due to lack of students. World Mentoring Academy (MOOC) offers Free 1,100+ courses in a Learning module system and has 170+ courses offering Univ credit from the College Board, Fed Gov, NYU, TECEP, ECE test out & transfer options.(testing fee $80/course paid to CB, Fed Gov, NYU etc). With the state of the future of the US and other countries we need as many tools as possible.

  • Cilla

    Unfortunately I couldn’t support a plan like this in my state!  I think the government/public universities should be more aggressive about holding down costs… and less willing to offer larger-than-necessary loans.  

    I also think students and their families need to be more careful about getting so far into student debt.  Higher education, like health care, is one area where people are almost pushed into consuming things without really thinking about the cost.  I really hope new college students will put a lot of thought into the college and the major they chose, rather than acting first and being regretful later.

  • ina schonberg

    The Oregon plan is a breath of fresh air – more universities and states need to be looking for radically new solutions.  The Federal government is too focused on more student debt, and interest rates.  We need to colleges to reduce costs drastically AS WELL as find new payment schemes and methods. Many countries provide high quality education at a fraction of the cost.  Too much student tuition goes into capital investments, infrastructure, and ‘country club’ environments.  University degrees could be met with few requirements – three years of focused study rather than four years of study replete with unnecessary courses.  If students are unprepared – they could be asked to meet a few community college requirements.

  • Frank Rojas

    I attended the same university where Prof Goldrick-Rab now teaches over 40 years ago and get back there fairly. To claim there has been any substantial change in the students’ approach to the university is just flat out unfounded. The only thing that has changed is less class time is lost to protests and resultant class cancellations etc. Students today work harder and graduate at much high rates than we did. Despite negative thinkers like her the UW is better than ever. 

  • Regular_Listener

    This is not a “win win” situation that is being proposed here.  Barring an unforeseen surge in the U.S. economy, this would mean less money for universities, a substantial weakening of liberal arts education, and a greater focus on vocational training.  I don’t see how plans like these would create a robust trust fund for future students.  However, I do think steps need to be taken to reduce student loan debt and to bring tuition costs more in line with average family incomes.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    This is really fabulous- time for parents to move to Oregon!

    Big story is the criminal price of universities- when I went to
    prominent (now most selective) Ivy League school several decades ago it was $4000/ yr- I can’t even wrap my brain around total college costs of $250,000. It is an obscenity; moreover instead of being able to default on student loans without hassle which once was the case (since let’s be honest, Univ should be 90% free), now they are undischargeable loans even in bankrupcy. Crazy. Cheap and easy college is what BUILT American power, economic dominance, and the middle class.

    The great Matt Taibbi covers this all in latest:


Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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