Part Of Tuition Should Be Deductible

Posted: April 29, 1992

ITHACA, N.Y. — As the government spends increasingly less on student financial aid, many leading colleges and universities are using a greater percentage of tuition

revenues for scholarships.

Just as tax breaks are given for charitable contributions, this portion of tuition should be tax deductible.

Statistics compiled by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, which does research and analysis for 32 member colleges, show the growing importance of tuition income for supporting scholarships.

In 1980 the consortium schools spent on average 9.8 percent of tuition

revenues on financial aid; last year that figure rose to 15.9 percent. It will continue to rise as federal and state financing drops further.

The median tuition at the consortium schools in 1991 was approximately $15,000 per year. These schools devoted an average of $2,400 from each student's tuition to discounts for students with financial need.

Of the consortium schools, the University of Chicago spent the largest portion of tuition on aid in 1991: 30.7 percent of its $15,135 tuition.

Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Wesleyan and Williams spent 14 percent to 16 percent. Princeton spent the least, 1.4 percent, but it finances an unusually large portion of student aid from its permanent endowment.

Other schools include Rochester (28.6 percent), Harvard (8.6 percent) and Pennsylvania (19.5 percent).

After four years, families paying full tuition often provide more than $10,000 for easing the economic burden of others but do not receive any tax relief.

Scholarships based on financial need promote a socio-economically diverse student body and they enable economically strapped students to attend top schools.

All donations to colleges are tax deductible, whether the money is used for scholarships, an endowed professorship or a new building.

Tuition, unlike these voluntary contributions, is obligatory. Yet the portion of tuition that directly finances scholarships is, in effect, a charitable contribution, so it deserves the same tax treatment.

Many families considered able to afford exorbitant tuition fees are hard- pressed to pay the bill.

All college students benefit from the social and economic diversity that would be impossible without scholarship programs.

Our society, which similarly thrives on diversity, should reward those who pay extra to make it possible.

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