The Illinois House has approved a plan to study alternative ways for people to pay for college.The "Pay it Forward" plan calls on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to consider programs other states have adopted to address the rising cost of a college education. Such programs allow attendance at community colleges or state universities tuition-free as long as the student signs a contract to repay the state from a portion of future earnings.
Marilyn Watkins, a policy director with the Seattle-based Economic Opportunity Institute, says studies reveal that raising the minimum wage about ten percent does not negatively impact businesses or employment and that wealthy cities with a high cost of living can sustain a high minimum wage. That said, she recommends that Seattle raise the minimum wage one dollar per year rather than from $9.32 to $15 all at once.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has introduced “Pay it Forward” legislation on the federal level, as have 19 other states, according to John Burbank, the executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute and one of the program’s architects.
Marcie Sillman talks with John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, about a proposal in the state legislature that would allow college students to pay for tuition and fees after graduating.
PAID SICK LEAVE: A bill that would guarantee paid sick time away from work for some employees in Washington state passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. The bill would require employers with more than four full-time employees to provide paid leave for specified medical reasons. It would also cover work absences to care for children, spouses, parents, grandparents and parents-in-law. (House Bill 1313) PAY IT FORWARD: A bill still in the House Appropriations Committee would let college students attending public schools to pay nothing upfront for tuition. Instead, they'd pay after leaving school in the form of a small, fixed percentage of their future income for up to 25 years. Because it could be considered a budgetary bill, it's not subject to cutoff deadlines. (House Bill 2720)
"I think this is absolutely the right conversation to be having. We should be talking about the minimum wage in this country, and at all different levels. The federal, state, and city level," said Marilyn Watkins, who is the policy director at Seattle's Economic Opportunity Institute.
Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who introduced the Pay It Forward program in House Bill 2720, said that with tuition costs and loan debt skyrocketing over the past decade, students from low- and middle-income families find it more difficult to access higher education. The Pay It Forward program would remove that barrier, he said. “It enables people across a wide spectrum of incomes to simply go to college,” Seaquist said. Similar legislation has been introduced in 17 states with proposals in the works in several others, according to the Economic Opportunity Institute President John Burbank, a Seattle nonpartisan public-policy center.
John Burbank, a Seattle-based liberal policy analyst, had been studying the escalation of college tuition for several years when, in 2012, he hit on a plan to help students complete higher education degrees without going into thousands of dollars of debt.
This week, the House of Representatives passed HB 1313, establishing minimum standards for earned paid sick time, protecting the 1 million Washington workers who do not currently have paid sick leave. Employees will accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked (or every 30 hours if the employer has more than 250 full-time employees). This bill will probably impact people in the food service and retail industries the most, since Washington currently has approximately 190,000 people working in both of those areas, all with limited access to sick leave.
Those searching for a stark reminder of just how different the state House of Representatives and Senate are need look no further than recent legislative efforts in both bodies that, if enacted, stand to greatly impact Washington’s low-wage workforce.
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