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Fixed tuition costs burden students with debt and cause them to make poor long term choices. I know too many people who have taken jobs (and eventually, careers) that they don't love because they feel the pressure of their student loan debt. These are people who should be entrepreneurs but can't take on the risk of failing, people who might be Steve Jobs or Bill Gates but instead drift into a life as a no-name consultant. If we want game-changing ideas and want to encourage students to be bold, then we need to enable them to do so financially. We need to buy the financial risk associated with their tuition and, quite literally, invest in them as people. This is not an idealistic plea for MIT to "abolish tuition," but rather, a call for MIT to better align its financial interests with those of its students.
If instead of tuition every student at MIT was required to commit a percentage of their future income (say, 10% for 10 years) students would be more free to take on risk and achieve great things. Some people may end up paying less money under this system, and others more. Even if there were a cap on how much high earners had to pay (e.g. 2x current tuition), the commitment scheme could be designed in such a way that MIT would take in more revenue from students than under the current fixed tuition cost system. And this is while decreasing the financial burden on students by allowing them to pay after they have realized the benefits of their education (i.e. when they are earning, based on their earnings).
With income commitments in place of fixed cost tuition, no student would be unable to attend MIT for financial reasons. I also believe that such a payment system would help to foster community and collaboration on campus, make a statement to the world about the purpose and value of education, and help the school to cultivate stronger and more lasting relationship with alumni.
If anyone is interested in this idea (or one of the many variations of it), feel free to reach out. I have been researching models of education payments like this for some time and will continue to do so until it (inevitably, in my opinion) becomes a reality.
Erik Duhaime (Sloan School, PhD student)