Rationale for “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” Bill: Why I Introduced HB1516

Many of Hawaii’s residents have seen their children rise into higher prosperity through hard work coupled with the attainment of a college education. But with tuition costs being higher than ever before, fewer members of our state are able to make that dream come true. House Bill 80 is an “out of the box” piece of legislation that could change the way students at the University of Hawaii pay for their education. The Bill aims to set up a pilot program to waive tuition for UH students who would then repay a fixed percent of their gross salary via an “educational garnishing fund.” There are three primary reasons that I support this “pay it forward, pay it back” concept.

 By Rep. Gene Ward

First, we desperately need to turn around the “dumbing down” of America. That is to say, for the first time we are witnessing a generation where the parents are more highly educated than their children. It used to be a given that each new generation of Americans would have completed more years of schooling than the previous, but today that is no longer the case. This could have detrimental effects not only for the United States’ competitive standing in the world, but for the income-earning power and well-being of Hawaii’s youth. Today’s youth are not less intelligent or lazier, rather the prospect of dealing with large student debt has prevented many high school graduates from continuing their education.


Second, we need to curb the rising cost of higher education and the debt burden we are placing on graduates. The average student faces $35,200 worth of student debt upon graduation in 2013. This number is only an average, however, and many graduates face much higher burdens. The huge amount of student debt in our country has resulted in much of it simply not being paid back. For students at the University of Hawaii, tuition has risen 50% over the past 5 years alone, and a variety of mandatory fees are often an unexpected additional sting. With a “pay it forward, pay it back” system in place, students would not have to worry about securing loans to pay for college, which would also make it easier for students of lower-income families to attend college.


Third, we need to decrease class warfare within our state. Class warfare has become the educated vs. the uneducated. We need to ensure that as many people as possible obtain a higher education in Hawaii. An education or lack thereof can greatly change the quality of our lives; Census data reveals that Americans with just one year of college live 7 years longer and earn $35,000/year more during their lifetime. As with any new concept, there are some bugs to work out, however we do know the current model is not working.

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