As a regular reader of this column, you are acutely aware of the crisis in college education and particularly the soaring costs. As costs have climbed very little effort has been made to control them or limit the genesis of those costs. Our President has floated a plan which is destined for the scrap heap to have the federal government step in and rate colleges and then control federal funds to those colleges. A new way of funding college educations has emerged from the legislature in Oregon, and we took a look here.
We first became aware of this new funding program by reading a column by Katrina vanden Heuvel in the New York Times. You may ask why would we be reading someone who is “to the left of the left” in America? The answer could be we are suffering your pain for you. Or we could say that we have always advised you to read the left because ignoring them allows them to float their ideas without any counterbalance. Needless to say, Ms. Vanden Heuvel was effusive about this idea and suggested “What happens in Oregon, in this case, shouldn’t stay in Oregon.” She ended her column stating “Maybe Congress can learn a thing or two from Oregon.” We are talking a full-throated endorsement here with a suggested rollout to all fifty states through federalizing the idea. Gosh, we had to dig in to this and find out what exactly was going on in Oregon.
We looked up the author of the bill and it turned out to be Republican Gene Whisnant. When we spoke to Assemblyman Whisnant, we found out his bill really had nothing to do with this brand new funding idea. His bill was regarding controlling costs at state colleges, and a Democrat had added the funding proposal to his bill. Since Representative Michael Dembrow is the chair of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, Whisnant did not have much choice but to incorporate what Dembrow wanted into his bill.
What Dembrow is proposing is a plan dubbed “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back.” The essence of the proposal is that students would not pay money for their education while attending college. They would agree to pay back the state of Oregon 3% of their earnings for 20 years after graduating. This proposal not only was covered by the Oregon press, it was covered nationally by such publications as the Wall Street Journal. Both houses of the Oregon Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill to create a study committee to develop a pilot program which would have to be approved by the Legislature in 2015.