SPRINGFIELD — State officials would conduct a study of creative measures used in Pennsylvania, Oregon and other states to make college tuition more affordable under a bill approved unanimously Tuesday by a state Senate commitee.
The legislation, HB 5323, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, asks the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to conduct a study of Pennsylvania's "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back" program and similar efforts in other states, and to look at the possibility of enacting a similar program in Illinois.
Without discussion, the bill was sent to the Senate floor. The House approved the measure, 111-0, in March.
In the programs enacted in other states, students attend colleges or universities tuition-free, with the stipulation that they would repay the tuition later, after graduation, with a set percentage of their earnings for 20 to 25 years. Those payments would go into a dedicated fund to cover future students' tuition costs.
"This is something that came out of my hearings around the state last fall on college affordability," Frerichs said. "Students came to us and said they liked what Oregon was doing, but when we put together a bill we found out there were some real issues about funding. And Oregon is finding that they have some issues with funding as well right now."
He said officials in Oregon now believe it will take 25 years for their program to be self-sustaining.
Frerichs said he hoped the ISAC study would "give us a roadmap because college affordability is a big issue for this state and this country. Too many students feel that they can't afford to go to college, or they graduate with such mountains of debt that it really affects what they're able to do.
"If this state is going to be successful and we're going to be creating more jobs and attracting more business to the state, we need to make sure we have a highly trained workforce."