Another Take on “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back”

There are other ways in which the Oregon plan, far from cutting out the banks, could function as a Trojan Horse, allowing them to snag an even more lucrative role in the education business. If widely adopted as a model, PIF might well be used to absolve legislators in other states of any responsibility for public support of colleges. Income-based repayment plans could supplant existing programs that encourage wider access to education, replacing them with a one-size-fits-all model.

Earlier this summer, Oregon’s legislature formed a committee to develop a pilot program for “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back,” which would provide students at community colleges and four-year public universities a way to get an education in exchange for between 1.5 to 3 percent of their adjusted gross incomes over a 20-year time period. As I said then, my student loan payments have always been higher than 3 percent of my income so this way of paying it back sounded very manageable.

At Jacobin, two members of Strike Debt, Ann Larson and Michael Checque, argue that “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” is the “neoliberal solution” with lots of problems to figure out, and what we should really be fighting for is free education for all with no strings attached.

My position on this is that the program is several years away from being implemented on a large level, and that testing this out in the form of a pilot program can’t hurt. [Thanks to Nicole for the pointer.]

Photo: Jeff Ozvold

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