'The average student graduates with $24,000 of debt'

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon lawmakers got an earful from college students Monday who say they are paying more and getting less for their education.

With shouts of "no cuts, no fees, education should be free," hundreds of community college and university students marched to the steps of the state capitol, calling for an end to education budget cuts.

Katie Taylor is the first person in her family to go to college. After nearly 3 years at Lane Community College, she's at the University of Oregon.

"They're making budget cuts everywhere, but we just want to make sure that higher education is prioritized," she said.

Taylor will graduate with close to $30,000 of debt.

"The average student graduates with $24,000 of debt," she said. "Thousands of students that need the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which is Oregon's only need-based aid, are not going to receive that this year."

In-state students pay nearly $21,000 a year for tuition, room and board and other expenses at the University of Oregon. Non-residents pay more because the tuition fee itself is more than 3 times that charged in-state students.

Yasmin Ibrin of Hermiston goes to school at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. "This is my year to graduate. I'll be graduating with around $20,000 in debt, so it's ridiculous."

Governor John Kitzhaber arrived on the steps of the Capitol making a pitch to students for his education reform proposal.

"I'm committed to making sure that post-secondary education is affordable, is accessible and provides high-quality education to every Oregon high school graduate who wants it," he said.

Students said they understand the state is working with a $3.5 billion dollar shortfall but said at the same time, the state needs to invest in it's future.

A bill to make it easier to transfer from a community college to a 4-year school passed the Oregon House on Monday.

Rep. Val Hoyle, a Eugene democrat, said the legislation would make college more affordable by making sure that all credits transfer. The bill now moves to the Senate.