Commission would study feasibility of ‘pay forward’ tuition program

TRENTON – New Jersey’s top Senate lawmaker says elected officials can no longer stand by and watch as the deck is “stacked against” middle-class families when it comes to college affordability.

Senate President Steve Sweeney is calling on a commission to study the benefits of a so-called “Pay Forward, Pay Back” system. In such programs, students pay back a percentage of their income upon graduation for a certain number of years. In exchange, they are not charged traditional tuition at public institutions.

Sweeney announced Monday legislation would be introduced to create the Higher Education Tuition Study Commission.

“I want this bill passed before the session runs out,” said Sweeney during a Statehouse news conference.

“We need to do something different. This doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “The cost of higher education is getting away from the middle class.”

Similar legislation was approved in June by the legislature in Oregon, and comparable concepts are under consideration in Wisconsin and Colorado.

“It is just not affordable anymore,” said Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-3), chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

“We are asking students to go into debt in order for them to get access to education that will give them a job,” she said.

Commission would study feasibility of ‘pay forward’ tuition program