Office of Planning and Budgeting

AASCU States “Pay It Forward Is Not the Solution to Addressing College Affordability”

On Thursday, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) released a policy brief examining the potential consequences of Pay It Forward (PIF) (please see our previous blogs for background information).  The AASCU brief summarizes other, similar approaches to paying for college and analyses PIF as a potential state approach to financing public higher education.  

The report describes the following “13 Realities of PIF College Financing Proposals”:

  1. Most students could pay more, not less, for college.
  2. Considerable uncertainty would be introduced into campus budgeting and planning efforts.
  3. The majority of college costs are not covered.
  4. Students from sectors with the heaviest student debt burdens would be ineligible to participate.
  5. The class divides in public higher education, and more broadly, in American society, could intensify.
  6. Costs borne by students pursuing privately financed degrees and higher-paying careers would increase dramatically.
  7. PIF is duplicative—there are existing public and private programs that calibrate student debt to earnings.
  8. PIF’s start-up costs would be enormous.
  9. Payment collection would be costly and challenging.
  10. Campus and state leaders would have strong incentives to promote programs leading to high-paying occupations, to the possible detriment of the liberal and applied arts, humanities, and public service careers.
  11. Underlying college cost drivers would not be addressed.
  12. Support for state and institutional student financial aid could dissipate.
  13. Support for maintaining existing state investment in public higher education would erode, creating a pathway to privatization.

In addition, the authors discuss “The Unknowns of ‘Pay It Forward’”:

  1. How will institutional financing gaps be addressed?
  2. How would payments be collected?
  3. Who would control PIF funds?
  4. How would PIF’s structure and revenue generation differ from campus to campus?
  5. How would PIF complement or conflict with federal higher education programs?
  6. How would transfer students be integrated into PIF?
  7. What would be the consequences for noncompleters?
  8. How would college savings change under PIF?
  9. How would PIF affect campus philanthropic campaigns?

The report’s conclusion reads, “Creating a lifelong tax and privatizing public higher education through pay it forward is not the solution to addressing college affordability.”  

I recommend that readers review AASCU’s full report.

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