Education: Learn Now, Pay Later

Instead of bemoaning college costs, many a U.S. student may soon calmly tell the bursar's office, "I'd like to charge that for the next 30 years." The clerk may answer, "Sign here—but skip the total. How much you pay will depend on how rich you become."

Already adorned with a suitable acronym, PAYE (Pay As You Earn) is an intriguing scheme for putting a college education in roughly the same class as a house mortgage. Yale and consortiums of medical and business schools are trying to set up small pilot versions of the idea. To...

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