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Proposal Trades Free Tuition For Percentage Of Later Earnings

Some Ohio students could get a deal that would let them free tuition to public universities in exchange for paying a small part of their future salaries back to the state. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports a bill has been introduced that would allow a pilot project for a program aimed at helping students help themselves and future students.

Democratic State Representative Bob Hagan says it’s getting tougher and tougher for Ohioans to go to college these days.

BH: More and more students are paying higher tuition rates because we haven’t been able to control that cost.  Here in Youngstown in the Mahoning Valley at Youngstown State University, twenty five years ago when I started in the state legislature, the state was paying 75% of the tuition with the students paying 25%.  Now’s it’s totally reversed.  You have the state paying only 25% of tuition.  It’s getting increasingly difficult to get a higher education degree in the state of Ohio because of cost.

Hagan is proposing a bill that he says will help make sure students don’t come out of college saddled with debt that keeps them from being able to succeed in life.  He says students would go to school tuition free then upon graduation and getting a job, they would repay the state three percent of their income for the next 24 years.

BH: –What we are really looking at is allowing the board of regents to study it, make some decisions, tweak it a little bit and come back in 2015 with the plan.

Other states, like Oregon and Washington have similar programs to make college more affordable.  An Economics professor at Ohio University and the head of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity likes the idea.

RV: I think the idea in principle has some merit and I think the idea in principle is one that is worth Ohio exploring but the devil is in the details.

Richard Vedder says there would need to be a formula that gave enough money up front to make the program work.  Hagan suggests that money come from a severance tax on gas and oil but Vedder doesn’t think that would work since lawmakers scrapped a similar tax from Governor Kasich’s proposed budget.  But Vedder says the money could be found somewhere.  Vedder says there’s also a chance that the program would not be fair to some students in some majors.

RV: There is sort of a bias built into programs like this that favor students who go into majors that are relatively low paying after graduation.  Now maybe that is the intent of Representative Hagan.  But engineers, mathematicians and those in the STEM disciplines generally make pretty good money and if they have to pay a larger sum to go to college because they are paying 3% of a big income than 3% of a smaller income, a greater amount than social workers, anthropologists, people in lower paying, film majors, theatre majors….you may actually discouraging the STEM disciplines.

Vedder and Hagan agree on another point….that something needs to be done to make college more affordable because tuition is rising faster than family incomes.

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