After a week of hyperbolic reactions to “free higher education” in Oregon, folks have finally settled down to look at the actual plan on the table which, as Inside Higher Ed notes, isn’t actually free. In addition to our own take, here are some links to other folks who’ve taken a look at Pay It Forward.
For those interested in some spirited debate on the plan, we recommend listening to the July 10 broadcast of NPR’s “On Point,” which dedicated its first hour to a discussion of Pay It Forward. If you prefer your debates in print form, the New York Times “Room for Debate” feature provides seven perspectives on the plan. We’d recommend Andrew Norton’s piece, which examines Australia’s income-contingent repayment model. We’d also add that when folks from the right-leaning Center for College Affordability and Productivity and the Cato Institute are generally supportive of the plan (with some free market tweaks, of course), that should give you reason to pause.
For our money, the most comprehensive critique to date was written by Sara Goldrick-Rab and published at the Century Foundation’s site. She not only does away with the claim of “free education,” she is critical of the claim that Pay It Forward will produce debt-free education. While we recommend you read the whole thing, we also understand that you may want to share her criticisms with your peers, some of whom might have shorter attention spans. In which case, let us point you to a shorter summary that Goldrick-Rab posted at Education Optimists, as well as a summary by Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic.
The amount of press and discussion generated by Oregon in the last two weeks clearly demonstrates that the public is hungry for ways to keep a high quality college education affordable without taking on a massive amount of debt. We hope that this discussion stays front and center in the public eye and that more progressives bring in their expertise to solving this problem.