Parent advocates call for renewal of tuition tax credit

A parent group said it wants to raise the deduction amount to $11,300 for families.

Cati Vanden Breul

Parents of college students around the country are working to renew and increase a tuition tax credit that will expire at the end of the year.

Currently, parents with a joint income of $130,000 a year can file for a tax deduction of $4,000 to pay for college-related expenses, because of a bill President George W. Bush signed into law in 2001.

But the tax deduction will expire next year unless Congress authorizes a renewal.

The College Parents of America, an advocacy group dedicated to lobbying for parents of college students, is urging Congress to renew the bill and raise the deduction amount to $11,300 for all families, not just those with a combined income of $130,000.

The organization is calling on parents to contact legislators and has a link for parents to sign an online petition on its Web site.

James Boyle, College Parents of America president, said the tax credit needs to increase because the $4,000 tax deduction only covers a small portion of higher education costs.

“When people hear the amount, most of them elicit a chuckle,” Boyle said.

According to the College Board, the average annual cost to attend a public four-year institution is $11,300, which is why the organization chose the amount, he said.

If Congress accepts the organization’s proposal, $11,300 would be a maximum deduction amount, Boyle said. Parents who contribute less when a student’s financial aid is taken into account would only be able to claim their out-of-pocket expenses.

The government is helping itself by giving parents an incentive to send children to college, Boyle said, because college students become future taxpayers.

“These students end up bringing great revenue back to the U.S. Treasury,” he said.

Marjorie Savage, University Parent Program director and a member of The Minnesota Daily’s Board of Directors, said increasing the tuition tax credit would be beneficial to parents looking for ways to send their children to college.

“I certainly think that any (tuition) tax deductions need to be raised, because tuition continues to go up at colleges all over the country,” Savage said.

She said many parents are interested in what type of tax breaks, if any, they can receive when they pay for college tuition.

“It’s become a tremendous difficulty for parents to send their kids to college,” Savage said. “We are very concerned in the investment families are making.”

Don Johnson, father of University sophomore Emily Johnson, said he had not heard of the tax credit, but said it would really help his family.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a wealthy person, and I work a lot; this would really help,” he said.

Johnson, who owns a construction company, said he is typically conservative but feels the government should help families afford tuition.

“I’m a business man, a Republican, and I don’t really want a lot of handouts, but a thing like this would work well,” he said.

Don Johnson said he pays for his daughter’s rent and groceries, which total approximately $800 a month, and she pays for tuition.

Emily Johnson said increasing the tax credit would send a message the government cares about providing higher education to Americans.

“The message it would convey would be almost worth more than the money,” Emily Johnson said.

Unfortunately, with the current federal deficit, increasing the deduction to $11,300 for all families might not be a possibility, she said.

“It’s a good idea in principle, but not really in practice,” Emily Johnson said.

But Boyle said the investment in higher education is worth it.

“I think an overall concern is how (the tax credit) will impact revenue, but hopefully, the majority of Congress members will see the benefit in investing in higher education,” Boyle said.

He said the long-term benefits will far outweigh the short-term costs.