Oregon's Radical 'Pay it Forward' Tuition Plan Catching On in New Jersey

Under the plan, New Jersey public colleges could waive tuition and fees for students who pledge to give the state a portion of their salaries after graduation.
August 7, 2013
 

What if New Jersey college students didn’t have to pay tuition? What if they just went to public colleges for free in exchange for agreeing to give the state a percentage of their future salaries for a few decades after graduation?

Those are some of the questions leading Democrats in Trenton plan to explore this fall in legislation that could radically rethink how New Jersey runs its colleges.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said today he and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland), head of the Higher Education Committee, will introduce legislation to establish a seven-member commission to study the idea, called "Pay Forward, Pay Back."

He said it would be up to the commission to decide whether to set up a pilot program.

Under the plan, New Jersey public colleges could waive tuition and fees for students who pledge to give the state a portion of their salaries after graduation.

In theory, the idea would reduce the amount of loans students take out to go to college.

"When kids are getting out of college, they’re buried in debt," Sweeney said. "It gives another pathway to higher education. As someone who didn’t go to college and recognizes how fortunate I am that things worked out for me, you don’t want to leave things up to luck."

New Jersey’s public colleges have some of the highest tuitions in the nation. For example, the average in-state Rutgers University undergraduate will pay $13,499 in tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year. Once room and board are added in, the total cost of attending Rutgers will be $25,077 for students living on campus.

New Jersey would not be the first state to explore the idea of delaying tuition payments.

On July 29, the governor of Oregon signed a bill to appoint a commission to study a "Pay it Forward" plan and recommend whether the state should institute a trial program.

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