Reed: Tax code can help college costs


OBSERVER Mayville Bureau

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, would like to see college aid used more effectively and efficiently, while driving out bureaucracy in college and university financial offices.

Reed recently met with students and financial aid officers at Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College for a conversation on college costs.

“I will tell you, hearing from the students in particular, one thing that impressed me is that there is still the commitment to education that we need to have in America to make sure that we are creating jobs today and tomorrow,” Reed said.

“But, one of the burdens that I see is the ever-increasing costs of higher educational institutions in America.”

According to Reed, over the last 10 years, there has been a 72 percent increase to college costs in regard to items such as tuition and room and board. Additionally, he said there has been a 155 percent increase in federal dollars, trying to subsidize net costs down in order to make college affordable.

While speaking with the students and financial aid officers, Reed said he listened to suggestions on streamlining the application process and making students and parents more aware of various programs available.

“Also, when it comes to our tax code, and as we engage in common-sense tax reform, making sure that the provisions that are targeted and trying to help out our families in regards to the ability to afford college education are simplified,” Reed said. “That they are done in a way that is much clearer than the numerous code provisions that we are now aware of as we have gone through the debate of common-sense tax reform.”

He said it was clear that, for the most part, tax code provisions are unknown. As an example, he cited the 529 plan, which is an educational savings plan designed to help families put money aside for future educational costs.

“We need to streamline the code to make it simpler, fairer, especially in this area, making sure that people are aware of what those provisions are, and that when they tap into them, they can utilize them, rather than not be aware of them,” Reed said. “What we’re trying to do is bring transparency to our colleges so that the true costs, the total costs are known.”

Also while meeting with students and financial aid officers, Reed said he heard many instances of inefficiency.

“When I hear the stories that they have 23 different agencies that are requiring them to ask voluminous questions in their applications, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Reed said. “Why don’t we have the ability to have one stop, one shop for the financial aid program?”

Reed said the House is in the process of taking in the feedback and working to streamline the financial aid programs to ensure they are more user-friendly.

“We are also trying to put transparency into effect in regards to people that take federal aid, and that is virtually all of the higher educational institutions in America, that there be a real importance to disclosing those total costs for what it costs a student year-to-year,” he said.