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The Oregonian: 'Pay Forward' still shifts obligations elsewhere
Author: David Sarasohn
Posted: July 29, 2013

Read the original article in The Oregonian here.

Not since the bottle bill -- well, maybe not since Tonya Harding -- has Oregon gotten national attention like this.

Time magazine suggests Oregon has solved the college cost crisis. The U.S. secretary of education calls Gov. John Kitzhaber's office to inquire. The White House chief of staff mentions the idea at a meeting with congressmen. Inspired by Oregon, Ohio lawmakers have introduced a similar plan.

This Oregon idea, of course, is "Pay Forward, Pay Back," the proposal to let Oregon students cover their state university education by paying 3 percent of their post-graduation income for about 20 years. The Legislature set up a committee to design a pilot program for the idea, devised by a Portland State University class.

It's interesting, and seems to have advantages over the current system, where college debts of $20,000 or $30,000 or $50,000 are riveted onto graduates like chains on a galley slave. But on the other hand, it's just a somewhat more imaginative way of doing the same thing, transferring the next generation's educational costs to the next generation. It used to be considered the responsibility of the current generation.

Philosophically, this is the same shift of generational obligation as the current loan system, also aimed at 18-year-olds with no concept of what it's like to have a long-term financial obligation hanging over you.

But it is cleverer. No doubt college students will appreciate that.