Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How the Stimulus Helps You Pay for College

Posted By: Bovemsa Cheung

The government is poised to spend about $13 billion in stimulus funds on improvements to education tax credits that will offset up to $2,500 in college costs for millions of low- and middle-income families. But the changes probably won't immediately stimulate the economy or make much of a difference to the many families now living paycheck to paycheck, tax experts say.

Other education provisions in the stimulus bill, such as a several-hundred-dollar increase in the Pell grant, the biggest federal grant awarded to low-income students, have won bipartisan support. The education tax changes are more controversial, though, and have drawn criticism from some education organizations for their high costs and comparatively small impact.

Congressional Democrats defended all aspects of the stimulus bill, including the education tax breaks. "For the first time, Congress is making these tax cuts refundable, which means that even if people don't earn enough to pay taxes, they are still eligible for a refund. We also simplified the process by combining two existing tax credits, which will make the tax credit less confusing for eligible students. Both the tuition tax credit and the significant boost in the Pell grant scholarship will be a huge help for low-income and middle-class families struggling to pay for college," says Melissa Salmanowitz, press secretary for the House Education and Labor Committee.

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