This note, from the inbox, is intriguing. I'm not sure it would work but it's an interesting idea:
State Representative Brendan F. Boyle (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) announced a bill to commission a legislative committee to conduct an analysis of a plan to eliminate tuition at Pennsylvania’s public colleges and universities. The plan, popularly known as “Pay It Forward,” would forgo tuition at public colleges by collecting a portion of students’ postgraduate earnings over a set period of time.
“With Pennsylvania’s college graduates shouldering the second highest level of student loan debt in the country, the need to take a hard look at our existing system of funding higher education is urgent,” said Boyle. “This legislation would initiate the process of conducting a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the Pay It Forward model.”
The plan was first detailed in a 2012 report by the Seattle based Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI). If implemented, Pay It Forward would operate as a trust fund for public higher education. The program would initially be financed by seed money that would sustain it while the pool of graduates paying into the trust fund expanded to a level that would make it self sufficient. The period of time estimated for the program to become self-sustaining is estimated to be over 20 years in the initial EOI study, though that figure could vary based on the size and projected post-graduate earnings of Pennsylvania’s eligible student population. “At this point, we don’t have a clear idea on what the needs of Pay It Forward in Pennsylvania would be,” said Boyle. “That is why we need this study, so that we can gain a better understanding of this plan before discussing whether it is the most effective way of addressing the problems of student debt and college attainment in the Commonwealth.”
If passed, the bill would commission a committee overseen by a bipartisan group of state Representatives and Senators to examine Pay It Forward’s cost, potential funding sources and the feasibility of implementing a pilot program at selected Pennsylvania public colleges and universities. A full report of the committee’s finding would be published at the conclusion of the study. There are currently a handful of states that are considering or have passed similar legislation, including Oregon, which last month passed legislation that Boyle credits as the impetus behind his proposal.
“I think the number of states that have expressed interest in this model demonstrates that the traditional way of financing public higher education is fundamentally broken and that there is a strong demand for new ideas. The Oregon bill offers an excellent template for how such a game changing proposal should be approached,” Boyle said. “Given that this plan would likely require an investment of tens of billions of dollars before becoming solvent, carefully examining the merits and cost of Pay It Forward on an objective and nonpartisan basis will provide insight into whether such a program is feasible in Pennsylvania.
This plan would represent a revolutionary step in how public higher education is funded and accessed in Pennsylvania, and such a significant step demands an equally rigorous analysis to make sure we have the best available information to work with moving forward. The limited experience in the United States with this type of higher education funding model means we need to look at the long term ramifications of such a plan.”
The legislation, which Boyle intends to introduce when the House reconvenes in September, is not the first attempt by the lawmaker to promote an unconventional way of promoting college accessibility. In 2009, Boyle introduced the REACH Scholarship, which has been reintroduced in subsequent legislative sessions and would provide fully paid tuition and fees to qualifying high school students at public colleges. “As with the REACH Scholarship, I hope this legislation can promote new ways of looking at how we champion college accessibility in our state, and I welcome the discussion. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Harrisburg to get this bill passed, and advancing the dialogue about how we’re going to keep a quality college education in Pennsylvania attainable for generations to come.”