For the past several years, the expense of higher education has been increasing rapidly. College Board data listed the average cost of a four-year public school in 2016-17 to be $20,090 for in state residents and $35,370 for out of state residents. At private schools, the average rate was $45,370. As prices continue to climb, students and families have been struggling to keep up.
In addition to the standard four-year degree, some students face additional expenses depending on their major. Widener freshman Marissa Smith knows this firsthand: “The biggest challenge paying for college is that I am a part of the 3+3 Physical Therapy program, so I have to pay for six years of tuition and room and board.”
A September 12 press release from the office of Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey outlined his efforts to get a bipartisan bill through Congress that would make it easier for middle and low-income families to save money for college. The Boost Saving for College Act was introduced by the Democrat Casey, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Richard Burr (R-NC). Congess.gov also list senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) as cosponsors of the bill. Fourteen colleges and universities have endorsed the act.
The bill centers on the 529 savings accounts often used by families to put money away for college. The legislation proposes tax credits for families investing in 529 accounts, incentives for employers to match family contributions to a child’s tuition, and would eliminate any taxes currently levied on money taken out of the accounts.
In addition, any money placed into a 529 account that would go unused could be rolled over into a Roth IRA retirement savings account. Families with disabled children could also transfer leftover funds into an ABLE disability assistance account.
Widener students, despite being already enrolled, can still benefit. While the bill focuses on families saving prior to a student attending school, any current college student with a 529 account will be able to take advantage of the reform.
Currently, the bill is under review and revision in the Senate Finance Committee. If it were to reach the Senate floor, students can contact their local senators via phone and email to voice their support for the bill.