Pittsburgh Tuition Tax Shelved

Compiled By CityTownInfo.com Staff
December 22, 2009

A controversial proposal to impose a 1 percent tax on college tuition in Pittsburgh has been abandoned.

The "Fair Share" tax proposed by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had been watched closely by cities across the nation eager to uncover untapped sources of revenue to balance budgets, and college officials who feared the bill might spur a new and unwelcome trend. But the mayor announced yesterday that local colleges and universities had agreed to voluntarily contribute to the city, allowing the tuition tax to be shelved. They also agreed to lobby state legislators on issues of concern to the city.

"This is a leap of faith for us all; the future of our city and of our citizens is riding on it," said Ravenstalhl in a press conference that was quoted by The New York Times [from an article originally located at http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09356/1022777-298.stm?cmpid=news.xml&loc=interstitialskip]. "But it is a leap of faith that, if successful, will result in the revenue, $15 million annually, that Pittsburgh needs to solve our legacy cost problem."

The mayor noted that three major Pittsburgh nonprofits--Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and the insurer Highmark--had agreed to contribute to the city, although no specific sums were mentioned.

Mary Hines, president of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and Carlow University, was quoted by Inside Higher Ed as saying that the resolution is "very good for us and for the city of Pittsburgh." She noted that the contributions were expected to be short-term, since the city is expected to move away from voluntary support from nonprofits.

Earlier this month, Ravenstahl agreed to forgo the tax if universities and tax-exempt nonprofits agreed to contribute $5 million to the city. Instead of pursuing the tax, Ravenstalhl said he would then find another $10 million through other means. But the PCHE flatly rejected his request, and noted that the council would not consider payments as long as long as the mayor continued to use the tax as a threat.

Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon, told Inside Higher Ed that the PCHE had maintained its stance. "It has to be understood," he said, "we're not pledging a contribution in order to get rid of the tax, we are prepared to pledge a contribution because the tax has been gotten rid of."

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