The program Pay it Forward has finally gained traction within Washington state Legislature. Ideally, the program would allow people to attend college first and then pay over an extended period of time after graduation.
Cost of tuition would be covered while attending a college, but students would still pay for room and board, textbooks and other living expenses. Graduates will pay either .75 percent for community colleges or 1 percent for universities of their yearly income four times a year to their alma mater for 20-25 years. In addition, people would only pay if they are employed and can afford it.
Pay it Forward was first developed by the Economic Institute, and was introduced to the Washington state Higher Education Committee by Rep. Larry Seaquist. The next step for those in favor of the bill was working to secure votes in the house to get it passed, and then to take the bill for a vote in the Senate.
On Feb. 4 the bill was passed in the Higher Education Committee 15-3 with the addition of certain amendments.
This means that it will continue on to be reviewed by the House of Representatives.
Specifically, this version of Pay it Forward would partner with five high schools in Washington state and offer any graduating student the chance to be part of the program. It would apply to students graduating after January 2015, or anyone graduated from the school within eight years.
Essentially, it will give students five years of tuition without taking away from other resources.
“This bill doesn’t get rid of the neat grant or other grants,” Brian McQuay Jr., ASPCP legislative senator said. “It’s a test pilot for the program.”
Another aspect specific to the bill is that the schools that will be part of the test program must have a large portion of low income students who, in other circumstances, might not have the opportunity to attend college.
“This program would be helping low income families and students to have a chance for higher education,” McQuay said.
A public hearing on Jan. 31 for students to speak on the bill allowed their viewpoints to be heard by the legislature.
In addition to this proposition, on the federal level there has been a bill introduced by Oregon state Rep. Jeff Merkley.
This plan would implement that the federal government will pay 90 percent of the tuition fees and each state will pay 10 percent for those involved in Pay it Forward.
While both of these work for the program, they aren’t the only ideas recently proposed to help higher education.
Recently in Washington, there has been a bill introduced for a new kind of loan specific to STEM programs; and a program similar to Pay it Forward has also been proposed.
The fate of Pay it Forward now rests in state and federal legislation to see whether students will be given a new way to earn a higher education or if another option will prevail instead.
For some, the way the Washington bill has set up the program seems to be the perfect fit for today’s students.
“I think a smart way (to) introduce it is to go start with the high schools which are a younger age group, to give them the opportunity to go to college,” McQuay said. “I think it will be more likely to succeed, and have them pay back into the program to help out the next generation.”
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