Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Washington UPDATE: Criticism of Tuition Package Continues

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Washington UPDATE: Criticism of Tuition Package Continues

Article excerpt

Washington UPDATE: Criticism of Tuition Package Continues.

President Bill Clinton's tuition tax proposals offer minimal aid for the typical student attending a public Black college, a congressional panel heard recently as it received a primer on how to finance higher education.

The typical family sending a child to a public Black college earns about $27,000 annually, while the typical Black college costs $9,000, including $2,700 for tuition and fees, said James Appleberry, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Appleberry told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee that under this scenario, a Black college student would get only $200 from the president's proposed tax credits, plus another $1,500 in a Pell Grant.

By comparison, a higher-earning family making $73,000 annually could send a child to a more expensive university and get $2,800 by 1999 through the tax breaks alone -- and $1,100 more in total benefits than the family that earns $27,000 and sends their child to a public Black institution.

"The targeting of the proposed tax benefits, as shown in this example, bears an inverse relationship to where federal dollars would produce the greatest net national gains in college attendance," said Appleberry, who noted that students from more affluent families already attend college in large numbers. He urged Congress to do more to help families earning less than $40,000 a year.

The president's tax credits include a $1,500 HOPE Scholarship to offset costs during the first two years of college. Students would have to maintain a B- average and stay off drugs to receive second-year HOPE assistance. Families could choose either this scholarship or a tuition tax deduction starting at $5,000 a year next year and growing to $10,000 in future years.

Instead of the president's proposals, Appleberry suggested using the tax code to allow deductions of student loan interest. Low- and middle-income students are more likely than others to take out loans, meaning the policy would help improve college access to those most in need. Such a plan would not lead to tuition inflation, which some critics fear should the Clinton plan take full effect.

Using a B- average as a benchmark also may work against African Americans and Hispanics, said Sarah Flanagan, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. …

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