Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rendell's Tuition Proposal Has Competition

A Republican lawmaker has unveiled a college aid program to compete with Governor Ed Rendell's Tuition Relief Act. State Senator Jeff Piccola of Dauphin County says his plan would help more students go to college without legalizing video poker machines, as Rendell has proposed. Piccola wants to increase funding for grants through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency by 145 million dollars. He says that would help an additional 25,000 students. The assistance could apply to tuition at any Pennsylvania school. Piccola says he'd pay for it by eliminating tax breaks for movies filmed in Pennsylvania, and by reducing funding for private colleges, museums and arts programs.

Rendell says he likes some of Piccola's ideas, but the proposal doesn't go far enough. Rendell's program would help an estimated 170,000 students when fully implemented. It would help cover tuition, fees, room and board for students who go to community colleges or state-owned universities. Students whose families earn less than $100,000 could get up to $7,600 in aid. Rendell would pay for it by legalizing video poker machines and imposing a 50% tax on them.

The head of Pennsylvania's Gaming Control Board says it's not clear whether legalizing video poker machines could cut into casino profits. Mary DiGiacomo Colins also says she would need more details before determining whether the Gaming Board should oversee the proposed video poker system.

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