May 15, 2003
JOBS AND GROWTH TAX RELIEF RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2003CONTINUED
AMENDMENT NO. 557
Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of Senator Schumer's amendment to expand the higher education tax deduction. This amendment would make the higher education tax deduction permanent and increase the amount that taxpayers can claim for a deduction. The higher education tax deduction helps families afford a college education at a time when tuition increases are outpacing the cost of inflation. Families need help to be able to give their children the opportunities and support needed for a good solid education.
In our information-based economy, the value of a good education is the key to success. I know this from personal experience. When I left the House of Representatives, I went to work for a high technology company in Seattle, WA. I did not have any expertise or knowledge in this area, but because I had a solid education that gave me the foundation to learn on the job, I was able to learn quickly and thrive in my new environment. That is the value of a good education.
My experience is hardly unique. According to the Department of Labor, the typical worker will change jobs nine times during his or her career.
When workers change jobs, they will find that more and more employment opportunities require a college degree. Eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations require at least a bachelor's degree. At the same time, jobs for people who have not attended college are quickly disappearing. Twenty-three of the 25 fastest-declining careers do not require a degree.
A college degree is no longer a luxuryit is an imperative.
There is a "perfect storm" brewing at colleges across this country that is making it increasingly difficult for families to afford a college education. First, endowment earnings are down, significantly reducing revenue for colleges and universities. Second, the economy has been sluggish for so long that corporate and individual charitable giving has been reduced across the country. Third, the sluggish economy has put State budgets across the country in crisis. All of these factors are contributing to the skyrocketing costs of college tuitions.
In Washington State, the legislature has significantly cut funding for higher education and that means tuition is going up. In just the last 2 years, tuition at 4-year universities and two-year colleges has increased by 12 percent each year. Over the past decade, tuition at the University of Washington has shot up an astounding 103 percent.
This trend is not limited to my State.
The vast majority of American families rely in part on federal aid to help finance their children's college education. A recent General Accounting Office report illustrated this point. It found that more than 75 percent of all undergraduate students receive some form of federal financial assistance. In addition, more than 40 percent of all undergraduate students benefit from a higher education tax credit.
With the cost of tuition on the rise, we can expect that even more families will require aid to send their kids to college.
We cannot let the opportunities of higher education slip out of reach. Expanding access to federal financial aid is a critical long-term investment in our workforce, and in our economy.