Make tuition credit permanent

Princeton Editorial Board

In his 2011 budget proposal, President Barack Obama called on Congress to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. This provides a $2,500 college tuition tax credit to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, for married couples filing a joint return for $160,000 or less, as well as smaller credits to families earning above this threshold. Given the benefits this act provides to students and their families, the Editorial Board urges Congress to listen to Obama and make the tax credit permanent.

The tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year. The credit modified and expanded the benefits offered by the Hope Credit — which already offered some families $1,500 per year in tax credits for education — for 2009 and 2010, making the tax credits available to a broader range of taxpayers and allowing credits to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two. The American Opportunity Tax Credit was part of the $814 billion economic stimulus bill.

This credit should be made permanent for several reasons. With rising tuition costs in a still-faltering economy, this tax credit, though small, gives families a break when it comes to college tuition. According to Obama, the credit is worth $10,000 over four years and will help families invest in their children’s futures. Because the tax credit covers college-related expenses, families can get a break on more than just tuition. According to the Internal Revenue Service website, the expenses can include, but are not limited to tuition and related fees, books, and other required course materials, such as lab equipment and art supplies. Furthermore, the credit is awarded per student, meaning a family with two students could receive $5,000 a year in tax credits for a total of $20,000 over four years. The Treasury Department reported that 12.5 million people used the credit last year. That means that in 2009, more than 12 million students from working class families received assistance in earning a college degree — thanks to a 90 percent increase in tax credits for education.

Though the Editorial Board supports Obama in making this tax credit permanent, if it is to be extended, it needs to be better publicized to students. On Oct. 13, Obama met with college students to discuss how the students benefited from the tax credit and whether they thought the tax credit should be made permanent. Several students told the president that they were not aware the tax credit existed.

Despite not being heavily publicized, the American Opportunity Tax Credit still positively impacted the lives of many American students and their families. Congress should act on Obama’s request and make this tax credit available to future college-bound Americans.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Princetonian editorial board at Princeton University.