Friday, February 27, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

In Oregon, a plan to eliminate tuition and loans at state colleges

By Richard Pérez-Peña

Going to college can seem like a choice between impossibly high payments while in school or a crushing debt load for years afterward, but one state is experimenting with a third way.

Last week, the Oregon Legislature approved a plan that could allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out traditional loans. Instead, they would commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state; those who earn very little would pay very little.

The proposal faces a series of procedural and practical hurdles and will not go into effect for at least a few years, but it could point to a new direction in the long-running debate over how to cope with the rising cost of higher education. While the approach has been used in Australia, national education groups say they do not know of any university in the United States trying it.

The Oregon plan had an unusual, and unusually swift, gestation. Less than a year ago, neither elected officials nor advocacy groups there had even considered it.

It began last fall in a class at Portland State University called “Student Debt: Economics, Policy and Advocacy,” taught by Barbara Dudley, a longtime political activist who teaches in the school of urban and public affairs, and Mary C. King, a professor of economics. Dudley was referred to John R. Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a liberal policy group based in Seattle that had studied the no-tuition approach. She, in turn, referred the students to him, and they adopted the idea as their group project for the semester.

The students and Dudley later made a presentation to state lawmakers, including state Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and chairman of the higher education committee. The Working Families Party of Oregon — of which Dudley was a co-founder — put the proposal at the top of its legislative agenda, and Dembrow and others ran with it.

“It’s unbelievable that it’s all happened so fast,” one of the students, Ariel R. Gruver, said last week. “We never imagined that we would actually accomplish something like this, and definitely not in such a short time.”

Lawmakers held hearings on the plan, debated amendments, and passed it, with the final vote taking place Monday in the State Senate. The Legislature’s majorities are Democratic — as is the governor, John Kitzhaber — but the vote in both houses was unanimous. An aide to the governor said Kitzhaber was likely to sign the bill.

“When we talked to legislators, conservatives said it appealed to them because it’s a contract between the student and the state, so they see it as a transaction, not as a grant,” said Nathan E. Hunt, one of the students who proposed the plan.

The speed and unanimity offer a sharp contrast with Washington, where Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on a new law on federal student loans, resulting in the doubling of interest rates as of Monday.

“Everybody is concerned about the problem of student debt load and the rising cost of tuition,” Debrow said. “Not everybody agrees on the causes, but everybody agrees on the effect. We all hear about it when we’re knocking on doors, running for office.”

For many legislators, he added, the issue has become personal. “It affects their kids, their grandkids,” he said.

The bill instructs the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission to design a pilot program, which would then require the Legislature’s approval. For now, only the broadest outlines are clear.

The idea calls for the state to provide some money to get the program running — how much would depend on how big the pilot is — but that in the future, payments from former students would sustain it. The plan’s supporters have estimated that for it to work, the state would have to take about 3 percent of a former student’s earnings for 20 years, in the case of someone who earned a bachelor’s degree.

Comments

comments

New York Times News Service

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    New greenhouse will add to ‘Farm to Mouth’ program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Learn about pollinators, gardens and honey at Yolo Basin fundraiser

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Fire damages South Davis home

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Can you give them a home?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Gerber nominations close Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Explorit: Humming right along

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A3

    Flower arrangers feature S.F. designer

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Celebrate Africa on Saturday at I-House

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Robb Davis to speak about homelessness, energy

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Spring sing-along is March 4

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Chamber explores how to pay for Davis’ needs

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Wolk and Dodd team up to provide Napa earthquake tax relief

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Class of 1970 plans 45-year reunion

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Bicycle safety course to be offered in Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Documentary on immigration issues will be screened

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Learn about your brain on March 14

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    A fill-up mishap

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Two free yoga classes offered March 12

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Take a night walk at Cache Creek

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Adopt a household for Bridge to Housing participants

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Workshop will teach sustainable gardening methods

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Forum

    Tired of all of this

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Cavalier attitude about bike safety

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

    Start early to build healthy dental habits

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B6

     
    No extra cost for containers

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

    Oral Health Project launches

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

     
    Here an H, there an H

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

    .

    Sports

    Encouraging start for DHS boys tennis team

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Off day for Aggie men at UCSB

    By Kim Orendor | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie women fall to 4th after lackluster showing

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lady Devils are on to the SJS semis

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Blue Devil boys expect a spike in production

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Inquiring minds want to know about Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Late goal lifts Red Wings over Sharks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    Watney struggling at windy Honda Classic

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    International Film Series to present ‘Jaffa’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Monticello announces March schedule

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    The Artery presents ‘Stepping Into Nature’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

     
    YoloArts’ Gallery 625 presents ‘The Poetry of Dots’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    ‘Focus': A sharply conceived caper

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    The Woodland Opera House announces 2015-16 season

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Nissan’s Z remains an affordable performer

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3

     
    Car Care: Simple DIY steps to protect your car through all seasons

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Dieter W. Gruenwedel

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    George Miller Jr.

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Death notice: Celia E. Recchio

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Vernon E. Burton

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, February 27, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B5