In Oregon, one proposal called for graduates to pay back 3 percent of their incomes for 24 years in lieu of tuition and fees. All students would pay the same percentage, no matter how high- or low-paying their jobs are after graduation.
This is obviously a little-disguised redistribution scheme. And, obviously, somebody has to advance the money to pay the tuition. That somebody is the taxpayer.
But this is going from bad (federally subsidized direct student lending) to something far worse.
For one thing, the plan is a clear incentive for students to load up on useless courses. Why not? If there is no correlation between the potential earning power of the skills the student is acquiring and what the student will ultimately have to pay back, why should he care what his college years will cost?
And what if the graduate turns into a loafer, avoiding work as much as possible? Will the government step in and force him to work?
More broadly, since the state will have a vested interest in the careers of students, will it muscle in on the career decision-making of students? If a student signs up for the program, he will essentially owe his working life to the state for 24 years. It's hardly realistic to expect the state to stand idly by, given that the career choices of the graduates will dictate how much of the tuition bill the state recoups. Who pays the piper calls the tune. The state will ultimately have to exert control over the graduates career choices—and ultimately college curricula.
Politicians should not be debating novel new ways to use taxpayer money to pay tuition. They should be working to get government out of higher education. The government should protect the rights of citizens to spend their own money as they judge best, not seize their money to fund yet another entitlement scheme.
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