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Local Students React to Tuition Overhaul

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ASHLAND, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers are considering a new way for college students to pay for their education.

The Pay it Forward, Pay it Back system would make community colleges and public universities completely free. In exchange, students would pay a portion of their paychecks afterwards for a set period of time.

The model that the state is considering would set that income percentage at 3-5%, with a 20-25 year term.

While some say it’s to spiraling tuition costs that leave many students in debt for years, Students and officials at Southern Oregon University say they’re feeling lukewarm.

“I like the idea of it, but I have some questions about how it actually works out and how much you’ll be paying ultimately compared to now,” said Jenny Steiner, a Junior at SOU.

Steiner, who is studying to become a teacher, says she’s concerned about what would happen to people in her profession, which offers the potential for tuition forgiveness.

Another challenge with the program is that the first few students would contribute nothing up front, leaving a gap in income for universities. Between the many state schools, that’s expected to cost around $8 billion.

“Who gets it? What about the students already in the pipeline who are borrowing money and are paying for it with their own funds?” said SOU Marketing Director Jim Beaver.

Beaver says it’s great that alternatives are being considered. But whether it’s this system or another one, the reality is the same.

“At some point the system is going to need an infusion of more cash,” said Beaver.

Jenny says 3% for 20 years sounds good in theory, but there are a lot of kinks lawmakers will have to work out.

“You know, I think I’d have to have a lot more information to make a dead-set decision,” said Steiner.