Pittsburgh Mayor Proposes Taxing College Students

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
November 24, 2009

Students and education officials are lambasting Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's plan to impose a 1 percent tax on college tuition for the 2010 budget.

Ravenstalhl estimated that the "Fair Share Tax," as it is called, would raise about $16 million in city revenue. "I've heard the argument that taxing the privilege of attending Pittsburgh post-secondary schools is unfair, that it would create a situation where students can't afford their tuition," the mayor said in announcing the tax. "I don't agree."

He noted that the cost of higher education for students rises every year, but "the city and its taxpayers solely bear the burden of providing them with services."

The tax on college tuition would be the first of its kind in the nation, and USA Today reports that other cities will likely attempt the same thing if the plan is approved in Pittsburgh. "It's a new and untapped potential source of revenue," explained Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, who was quoted by USA Today.

Other groups are watching the developments in Pittsburgh closely. "This is a hot topic across the country," noted Kim Griffo, director of the International Town and Gown Association at Clemson University, who was quoted by Inside Higher Ed. "All eyes are on Pittsburgh to see how they handle this and whether it works."

But Mary Hines, president of Carlow University and of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, argued that few students at Carlow pay full tuition, and they cannot afford increased costs. Furthermore, she voiced concern that less students would enroll in Pittsburgh colleges as a result of the tax.

"We want them to realize they are coming to an exciting city that will welcome them with open arms," she was quoted as saying in USA Today. "This does not do that."

During a meeting of city officials last Friday to discuss the tuition tax, several students spoke out against the proposal. "Students feel as though we pay enough," said Jasmine Flenory, a junior at Carlow who was quoted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's unfair that some people will have to work overtime to pay for this."

State Representative Paul Costa also announced plans to introduce a bill to quash the tuition tax proposal. "I understand we are in hard economic times, and we have to look for ways to raise revenue," he was quoted as saying in the Tribune-Review. "But I will not stand for raising this revenue at the expense of our students."

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