Is a tuition free education in our children’s future? The most promising idea to surface in the battle of education costs has come out of Michigan this week in House Bill No. 5315. The proposed bill would create a pilot program allowing students to attend a two or four-year state institution tuition free in return for paying into a fund for future students. The bill would begin with a $2 million dollar start-up fund sending 200 underprivileged teens to Michigan institutions.
The bill being discussed would require the students to maintain a GPA of good standing. Also, after graduation once they have achieved an income greater than the federal poverty level they will in turn pay a percentage of their income into a fund that will benefit future students wishing to seek a higher education. A “pay it forward” program that amends the state school aid act of 1979. The goal is for all Michigan students to receive a completely tuition free education. All percentages paid back into the fund are capped. Five years per each year they attended school at two percent for two-year community college degrees and four percent for a full four-year university education. What that equates to is a student who attends a public university in Michigan for four years will pay four percent of their salary for 20 years and a student who receives a two-year degree will pay two percent of their income for 10 years. The “pay it forward” program will be completely interest free, lower the burden on parents, and allow students to achieve a higher education to thrive in today’s advancing society.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) has been actively pursuing aggressive change for student loan programs. Students trying to pay off their student loans at today’s fees are going into bankruptcy in record numbers. The combination of being saddled with huge debt and the difficulties in finding jobs has caused student enrollment to drop in recent years. Legislation over the last few decades has made discharging debt accrued from student loans virtually impossible. The rising costs of tuition was up by 2.9 percent for a single year of education in 2013.
The biggest challenge to this law spreading throughout the United States is the astronomical profits the federal government receives on over $1 trillion dollars in overall debt. Per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, over $51 billion dollars was accrued in 2013 alone. Families struggling to make ends meet are still paying off significant debt decades after leaving school. Michigan legislators hope that a tuition free education will free up families to be spend their money in a more productive manor. “The ability to provide better for your family, plan for your future, and better support your community are considered the cornerstones to the well-being of society,” per the American Psychological Association. Financial stress is the leading cause of health issues in America today. Some experts believe that simply relieving the burdens of education debt will make for a more stable and productive society and in the long-term lead to a stronger financial foundation.
There is little argument that the financial burdens of education is a serious issue for parents and students alike. The desire for education is being trumped by the demands of rising inflation making the idea of college a pipe dream for many students. An opportunity for a tuition free education is the only hope many students will ever have at achieving higher education. And a higher education for all is the only hope for a stronger society.
By Kimberly Beller