Overview: Higher Education


Enacted Legislation


"Pay It Forward" in Oregon

OR House Bill 3472 | To study Pay Forward, Pay Back pilot program to replace current system of tuition and fees

As centers of education, research, and innovation, public colleges and universities spur economic development throughout the state. They help train and educate our ever-growing workforce, ensuring our state remains competitive in the global economy. And access to higher education is a key contributor to family economic security and upward mobility.

Yet over the past two decades, Washington state’s financial support for higher education has not kept pace with population growth and rising costs. Facing stagnant household incomes, students and their families must either take on a mountain of debt or shelve plans to attend college. Both paths limit their potential economic mobility, and Washington’s long-term economic productivity.

Growing numbers of Washington’s high school graduates are losing their shot at the American Dream, as the long-term decline in state funding for higher education – exacerbated by deep budget cuts during and after the Great Recession – pushes tuition costs out of reach for middle- and low-income families.

Since 1980, median family incomes have risen steadily for adults with four-year or graduate degrees, but have stagnated or declined for those with lower levels of education. Children from lower income families who do earn a college degree are particularly likely to make higher incomes as adults.

To ensure a strong foundation for Washington, we must increase public investment in higher education. Doing so will require identifying new sources of public revenue, but will result in a stronger state economy, supported by a highly trained and educated workforce. It is time to radically rethink how Washington finances its public colleges and universities, so the American Dream stays within reach of every student willing to put in the time and effort to succeed in school.

Learn more: See Pay It Forward vs. Pay As You Earn to understand lifetime costs of these options for graduates:pay it forward vs pay as you earn graphic 1

Learn more: See Pay It Forward: Sample Monthly Payments for sample monthly costs for a graduate:monthly pif evergreen 4 years

Recent Blog Posts

Visioning Tuition-Free College

Economic Opportunity Institute | May 31, 2018

Underfunding college shifts burden, debt to students

John Burbank | September 20, 2017