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Illinoisans May Be Able to "Pay it Forward” to Get to College

PHOTO: State Rep. Jay Hoffman introduced legislation that would have leaders investigate a "Pay It Forward, Pay It Back," program to help more Illinoisans achieve their college dreams. Photo credit: morgue file.
PHOTO: State Rep. Jay Hoffman introduced legislation that would have leaders investigate a "Pay It Forward, Pay It Back," program to help more Illinoisans achieve their college dreams. Photo credit: morgue file.
March 11, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - State lawmakers are researching an innovative way to help more Illinoisans fulfill their dream of higher education. House Bill 5323 asks the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to investigate the Pay It Forward, Pay It Back program, which has been implemented in a number of states, including Oregon.

According to the measure's sponsor, State Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Democrat of Woodstock in the 113th District, increases in tuition and fees have made post-secondary education unaffordable for too many people.

"Whether they get student loans or other types of financial assistance, there's still a gap left over and all too often when they do get student loans, the payments engulf their entire salary when they first get out of school," he said.

The legislator said the proposed program would provide interest-free loans for students in community colleges and state universities. In exchange, students would be held to an agreement after graduation that they would pay back their education costs to the state by a percentage of their income until fully paid.

Hoffman said that, given the state's financial issues, leaders need to make sure the program is adequately funded. They will look at what other states are doing, such as having a private institution assist in running the program. He added that supporting those who want to achieve higher learning is important for their future, and the state's as well.

"An individual who receives a higher education degree is going to be more prepared for the workplace, but also is going to make significantly more money than others who don't have that degree," he pointed out. "So I believe that access to post-secondary education should be available to everyone."

The bill has passed the House and is currently in the Senate.

Text of the bill is available at ILGA.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL