Promote Program that Provides Equal Access to Higher Education

Free education for all

Target: Chairman of Democratic Governors Association Peter Shumlin

Goal: Support the program that lets all students access public education

Recently, Oregon Legislature passed a bill that would allow students to obtain higher education without taking out a loan. This program is called “Pay It Forward” and should be a model for all democratic governors in the nation. Ask the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, to speak about this wonderful program with fellow governors and urge them to adopt it.

The problem of student debt is crashing this country. Currently, the total collective student debt is estimated at over $1.1 trillion, more than credit card debt ($693 billion) and auto loans ($730 billion). Oregon saw a decline in public funding for its higher education, which resulted in tuition costs going up significantly. Both houses of the legislature unanimously passed “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back,” which, after the governor signs it, will direct the state Higher Education Coordination Commission to develop a pilot project for consideration by the 2015 legislature. If the pilot program were approved, in-state graduates would have to pay 1.5 or 3 percent of their incomes for 24 years if they graduate from a community college or a four-year university, respectively.

This is a great concept that should be applied in other states. The model is successfully used in Australia. If students are unable to find a job, they do not pay into the fund. “This is not a loan,” said John Burbank, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit policy group based in Seattle that invented the “pay it forward” concept. “You’re paying forward, essentially, so your contributions would enable the next generation cohort of students the same free access.”

The Democratic National Platform of 2012 states, “To help keep college within reach for every student, Democrats took on banks to reform our student loan program, saving more than $60 billion by removing the banks acting as middlemen so we can better and more directly invest in students.” This proposal does not go far enough. To make education truly democratic, the government needs to open colleges’ doors to everyone, regardless of the ability to pay. The program that is being created in Oregon will achieve full equality and ensure no graduate would worry about debt. Sign below if you would like the Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association Peter Shumlin to adopt the pay it forward program in Vermont and to inform other democratic governors about its benefits.


Dear Governor Shumlin,

One of the most urgent problems facing America is student debt, projected at $1.1 trillion, more than auto loans or credit card debt. With recent graduates unable to find work, they are left in a financial ruin, denied mortgage and even car loans. The degree that they worked so hard to achieve is not paying their bills. Oregon is being proactive in finding a solution to this crisis. Recently, both houses of the legislature unanimously passed a bill that would allow Oregonians to attend college for free and without student loans. After graduation, they would pay 1.5 or 3 percent of their income for 24 years, depending on whether they graduate from a community college or a four-year university, respectively.

This program should be a model for our nation. It is not only stewardship to the young people who want to get an education, but also good public policy. With more qualified workforce, America will surge and will once again compete with other industrialized nations. To further the message of the Democratic National Platform of 2012, we need to move past student loans to “more directly invest in our students.” The fund established by the pay it forward model will pay for education for future generations, and will sustain itself. Please support this program in Vermont and inform other democratic governors about its benefits.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: MC Speedy via Flickr

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