Leaders from 19 states convene for first national Pay It Forward conference

Legislators, advocates and student stakeholders meet in Philadelphia to collaborate on proposals for debt-free access to higher education

PHILADELPHIA – Leaders from 19 states and nearly 50 organizations are in Philadelphia today to develop legislative action plans for the nation’s first tangible solution to the student debt crisis: Pay It Forward.

“Rising tuition costs and a debt-based finance system are pushing college out of reach for middle-class and low-income students,” states John Burbank, executive director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, where Pay It Forward was originally developed. “Pay It Forward can change that – so we’re bringing people together from the various states that are leading way on Pay It Forward, both to learn from each other and to make plans for implementation.”

Under Pay It Forward, students would pay no upfront tuition or fees to attend college. Instead, they would contribute a small, fixed percentage of their income to a public higher education trust fund after college that allows the next generation of students the same debt-free education.

Oregon lawmakers passed legislation to plan for Pay It Forward implementation in July. Legislators in seven other states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont and Washington) have since introduced or announced a range of other Pay It Forward legislation.

Conference speaker Audrey Peek, a higher education doctoral student at George Washington University in Washington, DC, thinks it’s high time. “Young adults and young leaders understand it’s economically unsustainable and morally unconscionable to pass this broken system on to the next generation. Pay It Forward is an opportunity to use pooled contributions to create a community of responsibility around higher education as a public good.”

Attendees include representatives from the Commission for Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, American Federation of Teachers, Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties, Working Families Party and Ohio Association of Community Colleges. Attendees are traveling from Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin.


The Economic Opportunity Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy center dedicated to building an economy that works – for everyone. More: www.eoionline.org.

Posted in Educational Opportunity, Higher Education