PEORIA – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today joined students and education leaders at Bradley University to call on lawmakers to approve his proposal to help parents send their children to college. As part of his Fiscal Year 2007 budget, 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.
“Students who work hard and keep their grades up deserve this kind of help,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “For many families – a $1,000 tax credit is equal to a mortgage payment or four or five car payments. It can really make a difference.”
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.
Bradley University student Maeghan Rempala is one of the students who would be eligible for the tuition tax credit. Maeghan, a sophomore at BU, is from Aurora. Her major is Secondary Education and Social Studies, and she is preparing to teach at the high school level. Her mother is an elementary school teacher and her father, an accountant, is unemployed. In addition to helping Maeghan get through school, her parents are also supporting her three sisters – one that goes to Millikin University in Decatur, while the other two are in high school and middle school.
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.
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, Gov. 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.