July 11, 2013

Affordability is the prime marketing challenge facing most colleges today, especially in Oregon. Public funding has plunged, tuitions have surged and the total student-loan debt in America now exceeds $1 trillion. And now interest rates on government tuition loans have doubled. The core marketing challenge is helping people afford college.

That’s why one of the best marketing ideas for higher education I’ve heard of is Oregon’s proposed “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” plan, which would create a “no money down” fund that students would draw from and eventually pay back (3% of their salary for 24 years). The plan is only in the study committee phase now, and Oregon won’t decide until 2015 whether to implement the program.

A state senator from Beaverton, Mark Hass, stated in a Wall St. Journal story, “We have to get way out of the box if we’re going to get serious about getting young people into college and out of college without burdening them with a lifetime of debt.”

Oregon’s plan has parallels to income-based repayment models used for decades in the U.K. and Australia, and more recently in the U.S. Under the Oregon plan, students who don’t graduate would still pay a fraction of their incomes into the fund; the amount would depend on how long they were in school. What new ideas are you bringing to the table in your business?

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