BY MARTIN KICH
Here is another item to put in the folder of false assertions about how Federal tax policy screws the wealthy and exists to provide giveaways to the impoverished.
In reporting on an Issue Brief produced by the Pew Research Center, the Hechinger Report highlights the widening gap between the value of Federal tax breaks for higher-education costs and the value of Federal and State grants to students, in particular need-based grants. These two graphs from the Issue Brief show not only that the value of the tax deductions now exceeds that of the grants, but that this represents a major shift—in fact, a reversal of priorities—that has occurred over the last three decades:
The overview provided by the Hechinger Report indicates that a significant portion of various types of student aid that most would assume would be awarded on the basis of need (such as work-study grants) are instead awarded to students whose family incomes are upper-middle-income or higher.
The Pew Center’s Issue Brief emphasizes that although the tax deductions are almost never discussed when the increasing cost of higher education is being addressed, those deductions have at least as much impact on available Federal revenue and spending decisions as any program providing direct grants to students. In fact, those who support the tax deductions would prefer not to discuss them at all as “costs” because doing so would highlight how disproportionately they benefit families in the highest income brackets.
The complete Hechinger Report article is available at: http://hechingerreport.org/federal-higher-ed-tax-breaks-now-exceed-cost-grants-lower-income-students/?utm.
The complete Pew Research Center Issue Brief is available at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2015/06/federal-and-state-funding-of-higher-education.