July 9, 2013 - Recently a former high school classmate of mine posted a link on Facebook from the "too smart to vote republican" website touting what a great idea and example Oregon is in passing a bill for free tuition at their colleges and universities. My first clue should have been that it was from the "too smart to vote republican" website. But I couldn't resist reading the article, even though I knew that it would probably get me riled up. I'm not sure who's idea this was, but both the house and senate of Oregon thought it was a wonderful idea, big surprise that they are both controlled by a Democrat majority. If there is one thing the Democrats are good at, it's thinking of how to spend someone else's money. Or passing bills that the long term effect hasn't even been thought about or taken into consideration. But what can I expect from a party that says "you have to vote for the bill to find out what's in it!" The fact that this bill is being cited as free tuition couldn't be further from the truth. I guess no one ever told Democrats that there is nothing in life free, including tuition at their local colleges and universities. The basic premise of the bill consists of the students signing a contract that once they graduate from college they will pay a percentage of their salary back for their college experience for up to a period of 23 years after they graduate and start working. That presupposes lots of things. Like for instance the college graduate can get a job. Unemployment for recent college graduates ranges between 5% to 12%, depending on the degree. So maybe if you have a more marketable degree than committing to pay the state back, 3.5% of your annual salary for the next 23 years isn't such a bad thing. But say you get a degree in philosophy and the only job you can get is one that asks "do you want fries with that?" then paying back 3.5% of your minimum wage job is a huge outlay. This is all to make going to college more affordable and students don't have to start out in debt with those terrible student loans with those outrageous interest rates (cough, cough) that even now the government is having difficulty collecting. Obviously Oregon thinks they can do a better job of collecting by having the students sign a contract, because that's so much different that an actual loan contract. But my biggest question is how exactly does Oregon figure these colleges and universities are going to survive, when it takes 4-5 years to get through college but they're going to allow students to pay them back for for those expenses at 3.5% over the next 20-23 years? The only thing I can think, is that I am glad I don't live in Oregon! Because this bill has disaster written all over it. My crystal ball says that there is a taxpayer bailout in their future. - Pam T., Virginia
J.P. replies: Well, your prediction is now in black and white. Ten years from now it'll still be here and we can discuss your prescience.