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White House Plans New Education Tax Break

WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration again is touting new tax benefits for higher education, though its ideas may not fare as well as they did back in 1997.
That year, Congress approved two new tax credit programs — the HOPE Scholarship and the lifelong learning credit. HOPE provides up to $1,500 annually for the first two years of college, while the lifelong learning credit allows a 20 percent tuition tax deduction. Both programs generally serve single-parent families earning up to $50,000 a year and two-parent families with maximum incomes of $100,000.
But the president wants to build on those ideas with a new College Opportunity Tax Cut, which would increase the size of the tax deduction and also allow more affluent families to reap benefits. The new plan would provide a 28 percent tuition tax deduction, an increase of nearly 50 percent beyond the current lifelong learning credit, and extend eligibility to families earning up to $120,000 annually.
“Making college tuition tax deductible is an idea whose time has come,” Education Secretary Richard Riley said in announcing the plan. But some advocates for low-income students may have problems with the proposal.
Low-income families with little or no tax liability would get few gains under the new credit, says J. Noah Brown, public policy director for the Association of Community College Trustees. Brown says he is “concerned with using the tax code to provide student aid when there’s a slate of [federal] financial aid programs that work well.”
The tax plan may cost as much as $30 billion, he says. By comparison, the government spends only about one-fourth that much money on Pell Grants. The president’s 2001 budget plan provides an extra $716 million for Pell, enough to raise the maximum grant by $200 for the neediest students.
Community colleges welcome that increase, Brown says, though the administration and Congress have the flexibility to add $1,000 to that maximum grant, for top aid of $4,500 per student. The president’s plan for Pell is “modest” compared to his tax credit proposal, he says. We could do more on Pell. We’re a long way from what’s allowed in the law.”


Black History Month Celebrates Its Founder

WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital began celebrating Black History Month with a tribute to the originator of the idea, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, half a century after his death.
Jacqueline Goggin, a Woodson biographer, told how he worked to popularize a  knowledge of the past, particularly the African American past. Tap dancers Brother Black and 10-year-old Cartier Anthony Williams also appeared on the program at the National Museum of Natural History.
“That’s the way we always do it,” says Jo Ann Webb, one of the officials promoting Black History programs among the 16 museums and galleries of the Smithsonian Institution. “We have a lecture and then some entertainment, too.”
Woodson, who died in 1950, founded what is now the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915. He first proposed “Negro History Week,” held in the month that includes the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, for whom Douglass helped recruit Black troops in the Civil War.
By 1976 Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month.


More College Freshmen Report Disabilities

WASHINGTON — The percentage of freshmen with disabilities has increased significantly in recent decades, tripling over a 20-year period, according to a report from the American Council on Education.
And the most common disability cited was learning disability.
The report, College Freshmen with Disabilities: A Biennial Statistical Profile, indicates that 9 percent of all first-time, full-time freshmen enrolled in the nation’s postsecondary institutions in 1998 said they had at least one type of disability. In 1978, just 3 percent reported a disability.
Cosponsored by the Graduate School of Education of the University of California-Los Angeles, the report is based on a national survey of more than 270,000 college freshmen. According to the survey, there are 154,520 college freshmen who reported being disabled.
Between 1988 and 1998, learning disability was the fastest growing category of disability reported among freshmen. In 1988, just 15 percent of those with disabilities reported being learning disabled. In 1998, that number had grown to 41 percent.
“The growing number of entering college students who have a learning disability is a result of increased awareness of such disabilities by educators and enhanced and increased campus services to aid those students,” says Stanley O. Ikenberry, ACE’s president. “Better services and strong commitment by our colleges to serve these students now make it possible for more students with a variety of disabilities to enroll in postsecondary education and to succeed.”
For a copy of the report, visit the ACE Web site at: <www.HEATH-Resource-Center.org>; or  call (800) 544-3284.      



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