Franken stops at Coffman to pitch tuition tax credit

First year student Emily Larson, middle, and stepfather John Dreshar, right, stand by U.S. Senate hopeful Al Franken as he speaks at Coffman Union on Monday. Larson spoke in support of Franken’s proposed a tax break of $5,000 per year to help students pay for tuition.

Ali Haupt

First year student Emily Larson, middle, and stepfather John Dreshar, right, stand by U.S. Senate hopeful Al Franken as he speaks at Coffman Union on Monday. Larson spoke in support of Franken’s proposed a tax break of $5,000 per year to help students pay for tuition.

The day before primary elections, U.S. Senate hopeful Al Franken stopped at MinnesotaâÄôs education epicenter to pitch a plan to help students afford college. The DemocratâÄôs âÄúTicket To SuccessâÄù tax credit would mean $5,000 per year, for up to four years, for students in middle-class households. Each student in a family earning up to $200,000 annually would qualify for the break, which could go toward both public and private education institutions, as well as graduate school and community college. Franken approximates that nationwide, his proposal could help up to 10 million students. The $48 billion price tag would be paid over five years by rescinding the Bush administrationâÄôs tax cuts for Americans earning more than $1 million per year. But former teacher Priscilla Lord Faris , FrankenâÄôs challenger in todayâÄôs primary, noted her familiarity with the education system and said his plan wouldnâÄôt work. Instead, Lord Faris said, itâÄôs more reasonable for legislators to cap how much students can borrow âÄî in effect, capping how high tuition costs can climb. âÄúI am very, very concerned about the amount of student debt,âÄù she said. âÄúOf course it would be wonderful if you could get credits for your tuition, but thatâÄôs pandering in my estimation.âÄù And even though a tax credit would provide some much-needed fiscal relief, especially in this economy, University graduate student Josh Axtman agreed that a senatorâÄôs efforts may be better placed elsewhere. âÄúMaking tuition cost less would take down a bigger barrier,âÄù he said. âÄúAnytime youâÄôre dealing with [tax] credits, itâÄôs a break you have to wait for.âÄù Axtman finished his undergraduate work at a less expensive school before he decided on the University for his graduate studies. âÄúFinances were definitely a consideration,âÄù he said, adding that even though he sandwiched a few years of work between his schooling, he still hasnâÄôt paid off his undergraduate debt. âÄúItâÄôs frightening, sometimes, watching that number add up,âÄù Axtman added. But as a first-year student just entering the University, Emily Larson would welcome FrankenâÄôs initiative. Larson, a member of a student organization supporting FrankenâÄôs campaign, spoke before the Senate hopeful at Coffman Union and mused about her mounting college expenses. Her stepfather, John Dreshar , also favored FrankenâÄôs proposal. He noted the costs associated with his two college-student children, and that he has four more heading to campuses in coming years. The struggling economy, Dreshar said, has left the construction worker with sparse job opportunities. âÄúIâÄôm a little nervous about it,âÄù he said, âÄúon top of all the other problems.âÄù