President Obama is using the bully pulpit to press Congress to make a tax credit for college students permanent.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was included in the stimulus package passed by Congress last year, gives students up to $2,500 a year to cover expenses such as tuition, books and supplies.
Speaking at a Rose Garden press conference on Wednesday, Obama called attention to the need to extend the credit, which is scheduled to expire in January.
At a time when the unemployment rate for folks who've never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have gone to college, when most of the new jobs being created will require some higher education, when countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, offering our children a world-class education isn't just a moral obligation, it's an economic imperative," Obama said, according to the Washington Post.
Approximately 12.5 million students took advantage of the AOTC last year, according to the Treasury Department. On average, they received $1,736 in benefits annually, 75 percent more than they would have gotten from the earlier Hope Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit. Obama was joined at the press conference by several families whose children have benefited from the tax credit.
The tax credit appears to be a worthwhile program, especially at a time of rising tuitions and shrinking student aid programs. But given the uncertainty in Washington these days over extending a whole host of tax breaks, including the Bush tax cuts, the research and development credit, and other provisions of the tax extenders bill that has so far failed to clear the Senate, its probably a good idea to advise more students and their families to take advantage of the credit in case it disappears in January.