Read the original article in The Oregonian here.
Oregon's "Pay it Forward" idea for student loans received a boost Friday from Sen. Jeff Merkley, who said he would introduce legislation aimed at providing federal money to help states test this new way of financing college education.
The Oregon Legislature this year received national attention after approving a study of the concept, which calls for students to pay back college loans based on a percentage of the income they eventually learn.
Merkley, speaking at the University of Oregon in Eugene, said a new approach was needed to help make college more affordable and ease the crushing student debt burdens that some students accumulate.
"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," the Oregon Democrat said, according to a press release from his office. "We need bold new initiatives that put opportunity for middle class Oregonians at the heart of our economy."
The Pay it Forward concept was developed by a class at Portland State University. The idea is that students would agree to pay back a small percentage of their income over a long period of time. The idea is that it would not represent an insurmountable financial burden to students once they graduated while still raising enough to repay the cost of their education.
Merkley said his legislation proposes diverting a portion of student loan money into a pilot program states could participate in to see how well the Pay it Forward concept works.
Steve Hughes, executive director of the Working Families Party in Oregon, which helped develop the idea, said Merkley talked about the pilot program reaching 50,000 to 100,000 students in states around the country.
Senate Education Chairman Mark Hass, D-Portland, said he is concerned about a number of potential problems with a Pay it Forward program. He noted the difficulty of getting students to pay back loans for more than two decades and that they could still face difficult debts to pay living expenses while they are in college.
Still, Hass said he would not oppose a federal program to help Oregon test the value of Pay it Forward. "I would welcome it as an experiment," he said, "see what happens, work the bugs out."