The results of a survey conducted in July for H&R Block, a company which prepares income tax returns, indicates that the plan to allow parents to deduct a portion of college tuition costs from their federal income tax is not as popular as President Carter's plan to increase the number of middle-income families eligible for student grants and loans.
The survey was conducted by the Roper Organization and the results were published in the August 7 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Over 2000 adults were asked to choose between four plans designed to lessen the burden of tuition payments for middle-income families. The cost to the taxpayer of each plan was set at $1.5 billion, which is the approximate cost of the tax-credit tuition assistance bill which passed the House in June.
A pending Senate bill would allow parents to deduct up to $500 for each college dependent, with the effective date set for 1980. It also allows a $250 tax credit for each child attending a private elementary or secondary school. The cost of the Senate plan is $2.9 billion.
Thirty-four per cent of the individuals polled favored loosening eligibility requirements for federal student aid, while only 9 per cent favored a $250 reduction in taxes for each dependent's tuition. The tax credit plan is similar to the bill the House approved, which Carter has said he will veto if it reaches his desk.
Martha Lyman, director of financial aid for Harvard, said yesterday that although the University does not officially support either Carter's plan or the tax credit bill, "Our feeling is that the administration's plan would benefit more people and would be more discriminating than the tax credit plan. It's more tuned in to the needs of students."
Carter's plan, which would raise the maximum income level at which families are eligible for federal tuition grants from $15,000 to $25,000, "would benefit a large number of Harvard students," Lyman said. These students would be eligible for grants of up to $1 600 a year. Lyman added that under the plan, more students would be eligible for subsidized loans, with interest paid by the government until the student graduates.
"We're not sure how [the administration's] Middle Income Assistance Act will look in its final form, but at this point it seems to benefit more people and distinguish real need better than the tax credit plan," Lyman said.
In the H&R Block survey, 14 per cent of those polled said they supported the tax credit plan if it is limited to families with incomes under $25,000. Twenty per cent favored giving the $1.5 billion directly to colleges to help them keep tuition costs down, while 16 per cent supported none of the plans, and 7 per cent had no opinion.
The results of this survey contradict the results of two other recent polls. In April, The New York Times and CBS News found that 83 per cent of their sample favored a tax reduction to offset the costs of college tuition. A Gallup Poll taken in the spring showed 51 per cent of those surveyed favored tax credits, while only 34 per cent supported Carter's plan.