College Tuition Tax Is The Pitts!

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Word that the city of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) is proposing charging a tax on college tuition has been met with criticism as students, parents and local colleges and universities voice their opposition to the plan. The tax, which would be applied to tuition only would help the city fund its pension obligations, raising some $16.2 million annually according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Services Fee

If the mayor of Pittsburgh has his way, college students will be shelling out a wad of tuition tax money every year.

If the mayor of Pittsburgh has his way, college students will be shelling out a wad of tuition tax money every year.

Mayor Luke Ravensthal defends the city’s move as Pittsburgh provides what they say is “free” police and fire protection to students as well as building inspectors who ensure that campus classrooms, libraries, administrative buildings and dormitories are kept safe.

This means that everyone from community college and tech schools to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon would be taxed. The schools would be responsible for collecting the extra 1% charge from their students and forwarding those funds to the city. The Post-Gazette says that the tuition tax would translate into a $20 hit for community college students, but as much as $403 for Carnegie-Mellon enrollees.

Questionable Fees

Mayor Ravenstahl also took issue with schools who are already charging students a myriad number of “questionable fees” for orientation, safety, security and other services, implying that parents should go after the schools themselves to reduce these costs. The mayor’s implication appears to be that some of those fees should be dropped to pave the way for the tuition tax.

The University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Carnegie-Mellon University are among the largest of the colleges and universities found within Pittsburgh city limits and have expressed some of the strongest opposition to the mayor’s proposal.

Duquesne President Responds

Charles J. Dougherty, president of Duquesne University subsequently issued a statement noting that Ravenstahl identified affordability as one of the primary barriers to college access in a December 2006 news release. Mr. Dougherty even went so far as calling the mayor’s proposal illegal, citing a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which struck down a similar measure.

According to Mr. Dougherty, “The Mayor’s proposal places the burden of balancing the City budget on the backs of college students. This will weaken Pittsburgh’s credibility as a progressive place to live and work, further hindering community and economic development efforts. As Duquesne and other local institutions work to recruit the best and brightest students to Pittsburgh, this tax will serve as a competitive disadvantage when prospective students compare us to universities in cities that do not impose such a tax. As the city continues to lose population and struggles to retain young adults as residents, it would be extremely shortsighted to create a disincentive for students to come to Pittsburgh colleges and universities.”

All ten schools represented by the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education have joined together to oppose the mayor’s plan.

Photo Credit: Keith Syvinski

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Categories: Campus News