House Oks College Tax Credits Missouri Students Could Get $1,500 Break

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The House approved a tax cut program Thursday that would provide $1,500 in annual state income tax credits to help pay for the cost of a college education.

Rep. May Scheve, D-Affton, sponsored the bill. Scheve, 32, said she was still paying off student loans from her years at St. Louis University.

"We're trying to help the individual with a degree in one hand and an incredible debt in the other hand," Scheve said. The House voted 138-2 to send the bill to the Senate, where similar legislation is under consideration. Gov. Mel Carnahan has been pushing for passage of the proposal as a way of reducing state income to get it under Missouri's constitutional limit on state taxes. "This is the most important new idea of this session," Carnahan said a fter the House approved the plan. He had paid an unusual visit to the House to encourage approval. The plan is called the "Challenge Scholarship Program," but is not a scholarship at all. Any high school graduate "making satisfactory progress" toward a degree or certificate is eligible if the person is attending an accredited public or private college in Missouri. If the bill (HB538) becomes law, it would take effect next year. Parents of students or the students themselves would be able to take a tax credit of $17 per credit hour up to a maximum of $500 on their income taxes. In 1999, the per-hour credit is $33 up to a maximum of $1,000. In 2000, the per-hour credit is $50 to a maximum of $1,500. Tax credits are subtracted from income taxes owed. The tax credit is good for the first 60 semester hours at both two- and four-year institutions. Full-time students attending four-year institutions in Missouri take an average of 15 hours each semester, so the credit is expected to be good for a student's first two years of college. …