Reasons to move to Oregon: There’s no sales tax, someone else pumps your gas for you, and starting in 2016, you can go to community college for free (if you qualify).
Sure, some people would say those are reasons to not move to Oregon, but that’s not the point here. The point is Oregon may become the second state in the country (after Tennessee) to offer tuition-free community college, if Gov. Kate Brown signs Senate Bill 81 into law, reports the Willamette Week.
Here’s how it would work: Students who file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and qualify for and receive federal grants will be eligible to have their tuition balance at an Oregon community college waived. The student will then only be responsible for $50 per term, so it’s not totally free, but it’s pretty cheap. Additionally, students must be Oregon residents for 12 months and start community college within six months of completing high school or receiving a GED. The student must also take courses required for graduation and maintain a 2.5 grade-point average to be eligible for the tuition waiver.
If signed into law, the program will have a cap of $10 million per fiscal year to cover students’ tuition balances, and the state government estimates between 10,000 and 12,000 students would participate.
Education-loan borrowing among students pursuing an associate’s degree has increased significantly in the past decade, particularly among low-income students. For the 2011-2012 academic year, 55% of students who received Pell Grants and earned associate’s degrees also graduated with debt, according to a 2015 report from Demos, a progressive policy group in Washington, D.C. In that same academic year, Pell Grant recipients took on an average of $14,500 in student loan debt to get an associate’s degree at a two-year public college. That demographic — those who receive aid but still need help paying for school — is the target of the Oregon bill.
Student loan debt has huge implications for borrowers’ futures, not least of which is the dent loan payments make in a borrower’s ability to save money or cover typical life expenses. Failing to repay education debt has grave consequences for both individuals and the economy as a whole — if you can’t afford your student loan payments, you could trash your finances for years to come, so only borrow what you can reasonably expect to repay, and explore loan repayment options to make the debt you have more manageable. You can see how student loan debt affects your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
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