Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Sen. Merkley Introduces Federal Legislation to Support Pay It Forward Pilot Programs

Senator Jeff Merkley

Senator Jeff Merkley (OR)

Today, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced the “Pay It Forward” Guaranteed College Affordability Act of 2013. The bill would provide federal support for Pay It Forward pilot programs.

For those of you late to the party, Pay It Forward is EOI’s proposal for debt-free higher education. Under Pay It Forward, students would pay no up-front tuition for college but instead would contribute a small, fixed percentage of their income after graduation for about 15 years.

The introduction of Merkley’s bill marks an important milestone in our fight to end  student debt and reclaim higher education as a public good.

“Our economy depends on a strong and growing middle class, and more than ever the road to middle class success runs through college,” stated Senator Merkley. “With students starting their working lives burdened by tens of thousands of dollars in debt, it’s clear the old models aren’t working anymore. We need bold new initiatives that put opportunity for middle class Oregonians at the heart of our economy.”

Senator Merkley’s bill would support more than just Oregonians. Currently, nine states are pursuing legislation that would establish or study Pay It Forward pilot programs.

In 2014, EOI will be working with lawmakers across the country to create debt-free access to higher education.

You can read whole release below and review a full copy of the bill here.

Merkley Introduces Legislation to Pilot Innovative Strategy to Help Middle Class Families Pay For College

Bill is modeled after Oregon’s “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” Proposal

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley introduced legislation that would create a new model for college financing to help middle class families pay for college. Merkley’s plan is based on and complements Oregon’s legislation that was passed during the 2013 legislative session and arose from a Portland State University student-led project.

The bill would fund state pilot programs that replace federal loans with a reduction or elimination of college costs in exchange for the student’s commitment to pay a small percentage of their future income.

“Our economy depends on a strong and growing middle class, and more than ever the road to middle class success runs through college,” said Merkley. “With students starting their working lives burdened by tens of thousands of dollars in debt, it’s clear the old models aren’t working anymore. We need bold new initiatives that put opportunity for middle class Oregonians at the heart of our economy.”

The “Pay It Forward” Guaranteed College Affordability Act of 2013 would allow some or all of students’ upfront costs for a two- or four-year college to be covered by program funds. Then upon graduation, students contribute a percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI) for a fixed number of years back into the fund. Put simply, students would draw from program funds while they are in school, and pay into—or pay it forward—when they graduate.

  • The bill would establish an alternative to undergraduate federal Direct Loans, providing Federal funding to states that agree to pilot a Pay It Forward model up to the current Stafford loan limits for each student that participates.
  • States would select schools to participate in the pilot.  Students who attend those schools could choose to enroll in the program. 
  • Rather than forcing students to take on expensive debt obligations with fluctuating interest rates adding an uncertain ability to repay, this legislation would open up a new model to guarantee students’ ability to afford college repayment based on their income after graduation. 

The rising costs of college and lack of assistance have caused students to graduate with enormous debt loads, or in too many cases to drop out because they can’t afford school. In Oregon, students taking out loans for their education face an average debt of $24, 370.

 

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