During the 2015 academic year, surging college costs prompted Sen. Chuck Schumer to launch a legislative bill to increase and expand college tuition tax credit that provides essential relief for Upstate N.Y. middle-class families.
The clause would make more families qualified to receive a tax credit and it would grow savings to up to $30,000 per year.
“A college education is a necessity that is being priced as a luxury–and it is breaking the bank for students and families across Upstate New York,” Schumer said in a statement. “With tuition costs continuing to rise, middle-class families should be able to take advantage of any savings they can get.”
The congressional bill, called the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act, was proposed earlier this year and affords families the opportunity to take $1 off their taxes for every dollar spent on tuition.
In the fall of 2009, as college costs were steadily on the rise, Schumer devised a similar tax-credit plan of $2,500 that would benefit families that made less than $180,000 per year, according to Schumer’s Office.
“I am introducing the new American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act of 2015, which will provide real relief for families by expanding the number of people who are eligible for this higher education tax credit and increasing the size of the tax credit itself,” Schumer said.
There are more than 500,000 students enrolled in undergraduate programs across Upstate New York, according to a the senator’s office. In a 2012 national survey by the Gallup Institute, a research tank in Washington, D.C., the average American household makes $52,000 per year. As annual college expenses continue to rise, Schumer ensures that the bill could save Americans an upwards of $1.5 billion in savings each year.
“It’s time we update and grow the tax credit to better keep up with the rising cost of tuition, and make it a permanent fixture in the tax code. The difficulty of affording college tuition certainly isn’t expiring,” Schumer said.
Twenty years ago, the average cost of an undergraduate education was $6,562, guaranteeing students a placement in the coveted middle class. However, in 2015, the stakes are even higher, causing students to pay nearly triple this amount over a four-year-span, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences.
Throughout the SUNY system, Oswego State is renowned as a cost-effective academic institution. In 2013, 65.4 percent of graduating students borrowed financial aid to fund their education, according to a study by U.S News and World Report. Sophomore and marketing managing major Isaiah Cox supports Schumer’s new bill to make college affordable. Similar to many Oswego State students, he struggles to cope with the expedited debt he will face in the future.
“It’s stressful. I wonder sometimes if it’s worth it, but it is something you have to do,” Cox said. “I think this is a great idea for college students. I have a lot of friends who would love to go to great, big universities but they can’t afford it.”
Vice President of Activities for the Business Management Club Rose Joseph is in the know about her student loan debt. Raised by a single parent, she understands the fiscal burden of higher education. Joseph agrees with the senator’s plan and hopes it can open opportunities for minority students.
“I was freaking out before I came to school because I know it’s expensive,” Joseph said. “My mom has to work extra hours just to pay for it. If this bill goes through, more people would be willing to go away to school because they can afford it. Not everybody gets financial aid. I know I don’t and it’s hard.”
Freshman and human development major Jasmilly Solares works extra shifts at her job to pay for her monthly college statement. In Solares middle-class household, the financial burden of college is carried by one parent. With less opportunities for financial aid available to Solares, she feels the economic strain of her college expenses.
“I try to help her as much as I can, but it’s not always a lot because I work in the dining hall and I don’t make as much money as I would like to,” Solares said.
Solares added that Schumer’s bill will destroy fiscal inequities and will help students attend the college of their choice.
“It’s better to make college more affordable because not everyone can afford to go to college,” Solares said. “There are a few people I went to high school with who wanted to go away to college because they were not able to afford it.”
While freshman zoology major Cayla Turner is attending Oswego State on a full ride, she watches the economic hardship of college plague her friends and family. Turner explains that the bill will help extinguish monetary disparities.
“Some of my friends have to pick up one or two jobs just to afford to be here,” Turner said. “I think it’s wonderful that he is making college more affordable. In today’s economy, not many people can go to college because their parents don’t make enough money to afford it.”
Since 2009, Schumer has fought for the disparities of the middle-class and hopes to make higher education accessible to U.S citizens.