‘Pay it Forward’ plan unlikely for university

The intitative started in Oregon more than three years ago.

Nearly two years ago, President Theobald started “Fly in 4” to help combat the national issue of college debt.

Before that program, a new initiative created on the other side of the country aimed to fight the same issue—by making college tuition-free.

“Pay it Forward” was initially proposed in Oregon in December 2012 to help college students afford higher education opportunities. The program, which started its pilot year in the state’s legislature in 2015, would allow students to attend a state-funded college and then pay for their education after they get their first job.

The amount of money that would be paid back differs between various models. In one example, a student who obtains a bachelor’s degree in four years would pay back 0.75 percent of his or her yearly salary for the four years following his or her graduation.

Temple’s Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Ken Kaiser said he is unsure of “Pay it Forward’s” validity.

“I’m skeptical that the program would work,” he said. “It sounds great, but someone has to pay for it.”

Oregon legislators decided not to mobilize the program because it lacked funding. The main issue was the expense: if Oregon’s government sent 1,000 students through the program it would be costly in the long run. “[Pay It Forward] would cost the state an additional $5 million to $20 million a year for about 20 years,” Oregonlive.com reported.

Colleges try to minimize tuition increases, but when students want better facilities, prices increase, Kaiser said.

“Kids want dorms that are really nice, they want workout areas that are top of the line,” he said. “They want amenities. They cost, and students pay for that. When students stop paying for that, schools will stop building them.”

The average amount of debt college students graduate with today is $33,000, USA Today reported.

One key to keeping costs low in secondary education is finding secondary revenue sources and cutting down on unnecessary budget costs. Kaiser said around 90 percent of the revenue for Temple comes from state funding combined with tuition money.

“We have to grow the revenue stream so that we don’t need to rely on tuition,” Kaiser said.

With increases in outside revenue streams like endorsements and television deals, tuition prices can then remain level and even drop, he added.

During the last academic year, tuition increased 2.8 percent. Kaiser said he expects the cost to continue to rise, but will not know until the state budget is passed.

Despite the increases, Temple is the second cheapest state-affiliated school in the Commonwealth System of Higher Education. Lincoln University’s tuition for freshmen is an estimated $11,860 about $3,300 less than Temple.

“When you look at our tuition increases compared to Pitt and Penn State, we’re 25 percent cheaper,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser does not expect Temple to pick up any programs like “Pay It Forward” anytime soon, as he expects the cost of college to drop if students find other credible ways to attain an education, like going to online college or community college. Once universities start to lose money and students, then they will lower their prices, he said.

“Students will dictate how the market changes and the direction of higher education,” he added.

Jonathan Gilbert can be reached at jonathan.irwin.gilbert@temple.edu or on Twitter at @jonnygilbs96

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