Tax deduction should expand, not die off

Any tax incentive that encourages higher education promotes many positive values.

At the end of this year, a tax credit aimed at parents with a joint income of $130,000 granting a tax deduction of up to $4,000 will expire unless it is renewed by Congress. Congress should renew the credit and expand its reach.

Currently, singles who make up to $52,000 or couples who make up to $105,000 can take the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits. Couples who make up to $130,000, though, can at least take the deduction. (Credits, which come off your tax bill dollar for dollar, are usually preferable to deductions, which only decrease your taxable income.)

Granted, there are a number of limitations with the credit as it is. It only helps students or families above a certain income bracket, and savings from a $4,000 deduction is not enough to cover tuition that averages $11,300 across the nation for a four-year public institution. But instead of abandoning the tax credit, Congress should expand it so it affects more students and provides a greater impact. Any government policies that make it easier for students to attend and complete college are a good thing. Tax deductions, credits and other policies that aid students and their families are really an investment the government will eventually benefit from.

College graduates earn multiple times what noncollege graduates will earn during their lifetimes. Recent Census Bureau data shows annual income for college graduates is nearly double that of high school graduates. Therefore, they pay more in taxes during their working lives. College graduates are also much less likely to use social government aid programs, such as low-income housing credits and food subsidies. Additionally, college graduates are far less likely to be sentenced to prison or commit crimes requiring sentences. Investment in the education of individual students is an investment in society as a whole.

Higher education has its own intrinsic value. It fosters economic growth, technological advancement and the overall improvement of society and mankind.

For students and families that take the deduction, for whatever reason, increasing the amount allowable would be a good start to fulfilling the promises the Bush administration has made to the nation’s youth.