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Make college more affordable by linking tuition to future earnings

College Students

By Joe Perez

One of the biggest obstacles to developing a World Spirituality based on autonomous, self-realized individuals is our present educational system in which economic incentives drive students into occupations that will stifle their authenticity rather than offer paths for giving their Unique Gifts. But what if our system of college financing were transformed so that students were more empowered to follow their dreams, and tuition were more affordable for all?

In The Economist, an article about a novel approach to make higher education more affordable:

Students in California have a proposal. Rather than charging tuition, they’d like public universities in California to take 5% of their salary for the first twenty years following graduation (for incomes between $30,000 and $200,000). Essentially, rather than taking on debt students would like to sell equity in their future earnings. This means students who make more money after graduation will subsidise lower-earning peers.

It is not clear if this will provide adequate revenue for the university. It also means the university bears more risk, because the tuition it will ultimately receive is uncertain. But the proposal will benefit some students and the principle is not so ridiculous. American universities already practice price discrimination based on parental income. The more money your parents have the larger your tuition bill; richer families already subsidise poorer ones. Why not price discriminate based on future income of the student rather than the current income of the parent?

It also means, in many cases, that degrees that command a higher value in the labour market, like engineering or computer science, will cost more than other degrees, like theatre arts. But if an engineering degree is worth more shouldn’t it cost more? If you think of a degree as an asset which pays dividends in future wages, the asset with a bigger expected pay-out should cost more. Faculty in high-value fields tend to get paid more. Perhaps some of that cost should be passed along to the students.

The proposal comes from Chris LoCascio, a University of California Riverside student, who tells AOL Daily Finance that:

“Charging students when they don’t have money doesn’t make sense,” LoCascio points out. Instead, the FixUC plan would charge students when they are actually able to pay — once they’re out in the workforce. “In 20 years, our plan would double the amount of money coming into the UC system.”

LoCascio’s proposal strikes me as an example of Reverse Innovation, in that it looks at the way the world is, spots a need where money is an obstacle, and engineers a way that creates more value for less money.

World Spirituality based on Integral principles is not merely a program for individual self-knowledge, but a system of knowing and integrating other systems of knowing in The Four Quadrants. By making changes at the socio-cultural level, individuals are empowered to awaken more fully everywhere in the spiral of development.

Photo Credit: Monica’s Dad