Free college tuition proposal

(WXYZ) - Parents, are you worried how your child is going to pay for their college education?  Would you like them to go for free?

A bill is being proposed in the Michigan legislature to make college more affordable.

"We want to try and remove every single financial barrier to higher education and we believe this is a great step in the right direction,” said State Representative David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights.

State Rep. Knezek is one of the legislators proposing a bill for what people are calling “free” college tuition, but there is a catch.

“The only thing free about this program, is that it’s interest free,” said Knezek.

The program is called, “Pay It Forward”.  The State Department of Treasury would run the program and give the tuition dollars directly to the university or community college.  The student does not have to start repaying the debt until after they get a job above the poverty line.

“When you’re making these payments back, you’re not paying it to a bank, you’re not allowing someone else to profit off of you going to an institution of higher education.  You are paying it into the system,” said Knezek.

Community colleges and universities fall into two separate repayment groups.

“If I’m a student who wants to attend a community college, for every one year that i attend, I pay back 2 percent of my salary for the next 5 years,” said Knezek.

So, if you attend somewhere like Oakland Community College for two years, that’s 2 percent for 10 years.  A university is a little more.

“At the university level, for every one year that I attend, I pay back 4 percent of my salary for five years,” said Knezek.

That means at a four-year university, you would pay four percent for 20 years.

Repayments would fluctuate with your income to protect students from payments they can’t afford.

“If you’re making a little bit more money, you’re paying back a little more money. If you fall on hard times and the income isn’t as high, you’re paying back a little bit less,” said Knezek.

The bill being proposed would set up a pilot program for 200 students.  Legislators would ask for $2 million dollars from the state’s surplus budget to fund the project.  There is also another catch: in order to qualify you have to attend a Michigan public high school and be attending a public university in Michigan.

Also, students who end up doing better economically after college would end up paying more and pay off their debt quicker.  One example is, if you earn a million dollars after college then you pay off your loan quicker and you are not tied to the 10 year or 20 year time frame.

The pilot program would be tested out with the first group of students and be revisited in 5 years to see what works and what does not work.  Legislators will also look to see if the way the program is originally funded works. 

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