The Current

Could Pay-What-You-Can-Tuition work in Canada?

Broke American students are streaming into Canadian colleges and universities trying to avoid the crushing debt that accompanies U.S. tuition. So what do Canadian students do? They might take inspiration from an idea out of Oregon: pay-what-you-can later when you're working. With so many tuition cheques already due our Project Money looks at the pros and cons of the Pay-It-Forward...
Broke American students are streaming into Canadian colleges and universities trying to avoid the crushing debt that accompanies U.S. tuition. So what do Canadian students do? They might take inspiration from an idea out of Oregon: pay-what-you-can later when you're working. With so many tuition cheques already due our Project Money looks at the pros and cons of the Pay-It-Forward proposal.



Oregon's new approach to tuition and student debt

Many Canadians scrape together thousands of dollars in loans, grants and savings for tuition fees... and still deal with crushing debt after graduation. People who've endured it successfully might say it's a rite of passage, or a good hard lesson in money management.

A Penny Deferred: A radical new way to pay for college -- The Daily Beast

But the State of Oregon thinks students may benefit from different rites and different lessons. It's considering a new way to collect state university and college tuition fees with a "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back" social insurance model.

As the school year begins, as part of our Project Money, we're taking a closer look at the controversial "no-money-down, pay-what-you-can-later" policy with the man who sparked the idea.

  • John Burbank is the Executive Director of Economic Opportunity Institute, a non-profit, public policy think tank in Seattle. He says this proposal makes social and economic sense, making it easier for students to access higher education.


STUDENT DEBT FACTS

* University tuition is get more expensive year after year across Canada.

* Newfoundland and Labrador is the exception -- rates there have been frozen since 2003.

* The most expensive province is Ontario --- where tuition sets a student back nearly $7,200 a year.

* The cheapest? Newfoundland at just over $2,700 followed by Quebec at about $ 2,800.

* The costs don't end when the degrees are handed out. The average student debt, according to the Canadian Federation of Students is $27,000. And it will take the average graduate a decade to pay that back.


Is 10 years too long to pay for an investment in your education and career? Some think so. And what about in Canada? Would the "Pay it Forward, Pay it back" model be a good fit for the post-secondary education here in Canada?

  • Ross Finnie is an economist and professor at the University of Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. He says Canada has a very similar system already and feels the "Pay It Forward" plan would make it easier for people with barriers to education to attend school.

  • Jessica McCormick is the National Chair of the Canadian Federation of Students and a graduate of Memorial University. She says we need more needs-based grants instead to help students and the proposed plan promotes the idea that education is private.

What do you think of the "no-money-down, pay-what-you-can-later" tuition idea?

We'd love to hear from you. Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Follow us on Facebook. Or e-mail us through our website. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And you can always write to us at PO Box 500, Station A, Toronto, M5W 1E6. And if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins and Pacinthe Mattar.

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