First, let’s talk about what’s low, and what’s middle, income – and what that means when it comes to paying for college. Median household income in the U.S. is $53,046 annually, and 4 out of 5 American families have a household income below $100,000. With tuition costs at state universities and community colleges skyrocketing, that means a majority of students and families are being priced out of higher education. For every student, their Pay It Forward contribution will be a known, small and manageable percent of their future yearly income.
Tuition “sticker shock” and risky loans disproportionately drive low-income students away from higher education opportunities. For those students who seek higher education, enormous debt burdens inhibit gains in economic mobility or security.
Under Pay It Forward, low-income students who qualify for state and federal financial aid will still be able to access that aid. That aid could be used to cover costs outside of tuition, such as books, housing and food. Students can choose to participate in Pay It Forward for any remaining tuition costs, and contributions can be prorated as necessary to reflect the student’s participation in Pay It Forward.
For middle-class students, who may be just above the income requirements for financial aid, coming up with the money to pay tuition is a huge barrier for entrance into and completion of college. This is especially true in the post-Recession era in which typical household income and wages have stagnated. Pay It Forward removes this cost barrier to higher education for these students, instead of encumbering them with unmanageable loan and interest payments to cover tuition as often happens today.