Bill proposes free college tuition in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia – The price of college is soaring.  In fact, college loans have now become the second biggest debt a person carries behind their home.  A new bill hopes to relieve some of that pressure and make college free FOR public universities in Pennsylvania.

In just a few days, students will be starting a new year at schools around Pennsylvania.  Besides the excitement of the new year comes the realization that school is expensive.  But a new bill could pay it forward, making huge college loan payments a thing of the past.

“It kind of just made sense to get into television because I like sports and news,” said FOX43 producer Courtney Cherry.

The television field has always been a dream for Cherry.  After four years at Bloomsburg University, she is working her dream but it came at a huge cost.

“It’s about, close to $400 a month I pay in student loans.  You add that on to everything else I have to pay a month, it doesn’t really leave me much to put in my bank account,” she said.

Unfortunately Cherry’s story is all too familiar to young people coming out of school.  Student loans have overtaken credit card debt as the second most expensive things people pay for behind home mortgages.

“We know accessing a higher education is critical to being able to achieve that American dream.  What we are doing right now with the cost of college education just isn’t right,” said Representative Brendan Boyle, (D) 170th District.

Representative Boyle is proposing a major overhaul of Pennsylvania’s higher education system.  His bill would make state schools tuition free with students paying for school only after they have found a job post-graduation.

“They will pay a certain percent of their income after they graduate and that money sustains the system for future generations,” said Rep. Boyle.

Bonds would be needed to fill a four-year void where no one is paying into the system.  The cost to the graduate would be 3 to 4 percent a year of a person’s salary.  Boyle believes this is not only good for students, but everyone in the commonwealth.

“It affects our overall economy if these folks are unable to pay back the student loans, unable to buy a first house, unable to do other things because they have less disposable income,” he said.

“As you get more into your career and make more, you can start paying back more.  I think that would be a really great opportunity for students,” said Cherry.

The bill would commission an independent study of the idea to see if it makes financial sense.  Representative Boyle is hopeful that it can be approved and in place by the 2015/2016 school year.

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