Washington House Bill Doesn’t Do Enough for Student Debt

By Robert Berman in Opinion

How much easier would college be if you didn’t have to worry about money until after graduation?

A bill on the floor of the Washington State House of Representatives seeks to make that a reality for some low-to-middle income students.

It may sound like a dream come true but the bill does not help some of the students who may need it the most.

That bill is house bill 2720, which hit the House floor Jan. 31, according to the Washington State Legislature’s website. The bill establishes the “Pay It Forward” program, which would pay tuition for eligible students.

Three years after graduation, students would pay a monthly percentage of their taxable income. That money returns to the program’s budget. Rates range from 2 to 5 percent and depend on the school and number of credits the student took. Students receiving financial aid or scholarships would have a lower rate.

The House would select five high schools. People who graduated from those schools within eight years of applying are eligible.

Two of those schools will be east of the Cascade Mountains. All of them must serve many students that are underrepresented in higher education. This includes low-income students and students whose parents did not attend college.

The bill makes room for expansion. It says that all high schools in Washington will eventually offer the “pay it forward” program.

But something is missing from the bill.

No matter how many high schools offer the program, it still ignores a large chunk of Clark students. The bill claims that students must apply for the program within eight years of their high school graduation, leaving 26-year-olds out of luck.

Students’  average age at Clark is 28, according to the college’s website.

A Pew Research Center poll in 2012 estimates 56 percent of U.S. adults under 25 live with their parents and 16 percent are between 25 and 30. That means that the average student has to pay for their own living expenses, along with the cost of tuition.

In order for the “pay it forward” program to be effective at Clark, it would have to include students who either have been out of school for over 8 years or did not graduate from a Washington state high school.

Students who want to make that happen have a voice. State representatives are relatively easy to contact. A student who wants to support such an expansion to House bill 2720 should first learn who their state representatives are, then email or call them. This bill could give Clark students a big boost in paying for tuition, it just needs the student voice.

 

What do you think? If you have feedback, a response or a story idea, send me an email atopinioneditor@students.clark.edu. You could see your response in the next article.

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