CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today joined parents, students and education leaders to call for passage of his proposal to help parents send their children to college. In his State of the State address on Wednesday, the Governor proposed a $1,000 tax credit for every child an Illinois family has enrolled in any college in Illinois, public or private. The tax credit applies to freshmen and sophomores who maintain a B average.
“Yes, this is a generous tax credit. But that’s what makes it meaningful. For many families, $1,000 is a mortgage payment. It’s three or four or five car payments. It’s the electric bill for an entire year. For many families, this is a tax credit that can help make the dream of college affordable and the dream of college a reality. It’s a tax credit that helps parents who work hard, who love their children, and who want it better for their kids than they’ve had it for themselves,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The proposed tax credit would make a big difference for Jennifer DeNeal, a freshman studying a major in Political Science and Communications at Loyola University, and her family. DeNeal’s parents live in the Southern Illinois town of Harrisburg, where her father is a small business owner and her mother a physician assistant. “The Governor’s proposal for a college tuition tax credit is definitely a great plan that will help pay for costs and expenses. It will actually mean a lot to the families who get it,” said DeNeal.
Jennifer DeNeal’ father, Tom DeNeal, concurred. “The Governor’s proposed college tuition tax credit will help pay for books, transportation and other costs. It will be very helpful. If it wasn’t for state aid, I could never afford to send my daughter to Loyola,” said DeNeal, who has two more children he will be sending to college in the near future.
A college tuition tax credit could also be critical for students like Carlos Acevedo, a 24-year-old Chicago native who’s a sophomore at Columbia College Chicago where he’s studying journalism. Acevedo initially went to the Lake County Community College, but transferred to Columbia and later on wants to go law school. Acevedo works 30 hours a week at a storage company to help self-fund his tuition while his parents, with whom he lives in Waukegan, help him pay for books and others costs. “It will be a big help for me and my parents right now, and I know it can help my parents also further down the road, because they are already thinking about college for my two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, who are 11 and 12. I’d like to thank Gov. Blagojevich for thinking about our needs,” said Acevedo.
To be eligible for the tax credit, students must be Illinois residents attending Illinois public and private colleges and universities that participate in the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP). Students must be in their freshman or sophomore years, and must be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program (Associate’s or Bachelor’s). Freshmen must have obtained at least a “B” grade point average throughout high school, and sophomores must have obtained at least a “B” GPA in their first year of college to qualify. Students in certificate and graduate programs will not qualify for the tax credit.
Parents would be able to claim the tax credit for each child listed as a dependent on their tax forms. Students who are self-funding their education can also take the credit themselves. The credit will cover tuition and mandatory fees.
“Loyola University is delighted at the Governors’ support for higher education and his commitment to make it easier for parents to afford to send their children to college in Illinois. We are particularly pleased that the Governor is advancing an initiative that will help Illinois families to send children to Illinois colleges and universities. Students tend to live and work in the areas where they went to college, so initiatives like this and the MAP program provide the additional element of helping Illinois retain their best and brightest minds,” said Phil Hale, Vice President of Public Affairs for Loyola University.
“This in an important initiative in support of Illinois families, especially middle and working class families who are disproportionately affected by the cost of higher education,” said Dr. Warrick L. Carter, president of Columbia College Chicago. “Unlike the federal government, which continues to move away from additional measures to support students seeking higher education, the State of Illinois and Governor Blagojevich are to be commended for this proactive proposal. This legislation will have an extremely positive impact on students at Columbia College Chicago.”
“We support the tuition tax credit because we think it is one step in the right direction towards addressing the challenges facing the Illinois higher education system. Affordability continues to be the leading concern for both traditional-aged undergraduate students as well as the growing non-traditional older student population,” said David Tretter, President of The Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities. “Governor Blagojevich’s tuition tax credit proposal will provide some real help to Illinois students, and we applaud him and thank him for his leadership. The Governor’s plan will deliver real help to students in all three sectors of the state’s higher education system: private colleges, public universities and community colleges. With a program that supports students no matter where they go to college, he is recognizing the fundamental obligation we have to help all Illinoisans by increasing access to higher education,” Tretter said.
“DePaul University’s mission includes a strong commitment to expand access to education and we encourage state government efforts to make college education more affordable,” said J.D. Bindenagel, DePaul's vice president of Community, Government & International Affairs.
The average annual cost in tuition and fees to attend a public university in Illinois is more than $7,000, and the average cost for private colleges is more than $18,000, according to Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) data. Nationally, the average yearly cost in tuition and fees for public universities is $9,200, and $24,000 for private universities, according to the National Council of Education Statistics.
A 2004 study from the National Center of Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE) revealed that parents in Illinois are devoting a growing share of family income to send their children to public and private four-year colleges and universities.
To help parents know how much sending their children to college will cost, in 2003, Governor Blagojevich signed the “Truth in Tuition” law, which locked in the cost of tuition for public institutions, which means that the tuition students pay as freshmen is the same tuition they pay as seniors. Additionally, the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) helped almost 150,000 Illinois students pursue a college education in 2004. But while Illinois helps working families afford college, the most recent federal deficit reduction package pending in Congress would cut financial aid by $13 billion.
Studies show a continuing gap between what working families can afford and the cost of an undergraduate’s education. Yet a college-educated workforce remains critical for the state’s economic future. Estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau show that lifetime earnings are over $900,000 greater for a person with a bachelor’s degree versus a high school graduate.