Maryland may soon join Oregon in exploring solutions to the crisis of student debt and unaffordable education.
Education is supposed to be a human right. But the United States puts people into deep debt to pay for it. Short of taxing billionaires or dismantling bombers (both of which we’re all, I hope, working on), what’s the solution?
The state of Oregon has passed a law creating a commission to study a plan called “Pay it forward. Pay it back.” See Katrina vanden Heuvel: An Oregon Trail to End Student Debt.
This is not a plan to make education truly free, and that would probably be ideal. But this is not, I think, a step that would move us away from that goal — in the way that strengthening but tweaking the private health insurance system arguably moves us away from a single-payer solution.
This is, however, a plan that makes college tuition at state universities initially free.
Students would pay nothing up-front and borrow nothing from loan sharks. Then they would pay the state back 3% of their income for some number of years, possibly 20. The graduate who brings in $100 million per year would hand over $3 million. The graduate who brings in $10,000 would pay $300. While the purpose of an education for many students may not be related to money, in terms of money one is paying for what one gets. If you buy an unmarketable skill, you pay nothing for it. Some have responded by calling this perfect capitalism, while others have noted its correspondence with the ideal of “from each according to his/her means.” This system also seems fair to those not interested in college: they pay nothing.