State Rep. Gene Ward
State Rep. Gene Ward, emcee
State Rep. Gene Ward
State Rep. Gene Ward, emcee

HONOLULU = Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai – Kalama Valley) introduced a bill today that could potentially change the way students at the University of Hawaii system pay for their tuition, easing the burden of climbing tuition rates and student loan debt that is curbing students’ appetite for higher education.

According to a 2012 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) , the United States is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation (25 years old and below) will not surpass the preceding generation in terms of schooling.

“Parents have always been less educated than their kids, but now it’s dangerously opposite in Hawaii; the parents are the smart ones; there are a number of reasons for this, but an important one is simply that the amount of debt that a college student has to absorb discourages them from going to college, ” Ward said.

Ward’s Bill would task the UH system with examining the feasibility of a pay-forward, pay back pilot program to replace the current tuition fees model.

In lieu of paying tuition or fees, students would enter contracts to pay back the university a certain percentage of their income after graduation. A similar piece of legislation already passed in Oregon last year. The Bill has garnered interest from both Republican and Democrat House members.

With out-of-state tuition costs ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per year, many students simply cannot afford to attend their college of choice. The amount of student debt in the United States has surpassed a staggering $1.2 trillion.

Other students are completely forgoing a college education altogether.
“It is time to act to incentivize higher education. Education is the great equalizer in Hawaii and we need to put our young people into jobs, not into debt,” Ward concluded.

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