Tuition breaks for low-income students?

By By Jay Logan Rogers

By Jay Logan Rogers

The Utah State Legislature is considering giving a $300 tax break to students in families claiming fewer than $30,000 on their taxes.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, presented the proposed measure to the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday. The bill will not be voted on until it comes before the Senate Education Committee later in the session.

“State funding of higher (education) has essentially been flat. We have increased our salaries and kept our people on the backs of our students,” Bell said. “Tuition has borne the biggest brunt of the increases.”

Bell said he proposed Senate Bill 62 because he is concerned that tuition increases have made earning a college education too expensive for many potential students.

“Now we have books costing $400 to $700 a semester, plus lab fees, various other fees and tuition,” he said. “We are pricing our students out of the market.”

Bell said 30,000 students would be eligible for the tuition tax credit.

He also emphasized that SB 62 would not increase the budget for higher education, although it would result in a loss of about $9 million in tax revenue.

“We don’t fund this. This is just a tax reduction,” Bell said.

The tax credit would only apply to Utah residents. University students who have defaulted on student loans or are still enrolled in high school would be ineligible for the tax break.

Members of the subcommittee expressed a variety of opinions on the bill.

“It’s fabulous, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Rep. Scott Wyatt, R-Logan.

Other legislators wanted to examine the bill further before making a suggestion.

“I need to consider all the implications. I don’t want to jump to a decision,” said Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem.

While many students agree that tuition costs need to be reduced, they disagreed over whether SB 62 is a good way to achieve that goal.

“I don’t see why they don’t just give people a tuition break up front instead of doing it later on their taxes,” said Whitney Smith, a graduate student in business.

Eric Geerlings