Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Calling it “completely unfair” the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE) took its first shot at Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s proposed 1% tax on tuition paid to Pittsburgh based colleges and Universities. Ravenstahl will use the 16 million dollars generated from the Secondary Education Privilege Tax, which he calls the “Fair Share Tax”, to make annual payments to the city’s pension fund and the Pittsburgh Carnegie Library System. PCHE Chair and Carlow University President Mary Hines says the $27-$400 tax on students that live in the city only eight months a year will in most cases be well above the $52 dollars paid by suburbanites who commute into the city year round. She also stresses that many students are paying wage tax, property tax and other taxes that go directly into the city’s coffers while they are living in the city. Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty says, “Whatever you tax you get less of. Do we want fewer college students in Pittsburgh? Taxing college students is the wrong way to go.” University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg says the colleges and universities are the anchor of the city’s recovery and the “Eds and Meds” have cushioned the city during the economic downturn. Hines says, “The mayor’s proposal weakens the city’s credibility as a progressive city and will hinder both community and economic development.” The group believes this would be the first time that such a tax was imposed on college tuition in the US. The members say this will put the schools at an unfair competitive disadvantage. Robert Morris University president Greg Dell’Omo says if Pittsburgh is allowed to institute this “dangerous tax” it could spread to other cities in the state. Hines says the members of the council look forward to meeting with the mayor and members of the city council to talk about alternatives. Hines says she does not expect the council to adopt the tax but if it does PCHE will, “take whatever other strategies are needed to take care of our students.” The council feels the tax would be illegal under state law.