Providence mayor wants to tax college students

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.

The proposal is still in its early stages. But it has riled some students, who say it would unfairly saddle them with the city’s financial woes and overlook their volunteer work and other contributions, including money spent in restaurants, bars and stores.

Cities often look for revenue from universities to compensate for their tax-exempt status, and many schools already make voluntary payments to local governments. Providence’s four private schools — Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design — agreed in 2003 to pay the city nearly $50 million over 20 years.

The four schools generate more than $1 billion a year in economic activity, said Daniel Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island. They employ nearly 9,000 people in a city of roughly 172,000.

news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090513/ap_on_re_us/us_taxing_college_students

this is just shameful greed. it looks like the schools and students(they are where the school gets money) are already doing more than their fair share for the city.

Wait, they have money to spend in bars but balk at supporting the state they are studying in? Sorry, no sympathy here.

Greed? Really? How? It isn’t like the mayor of Providence will get a cut of the tax money.

Brown University has 7,740 students; Providence College, 5,297; Johnson & Wales University, over 10,000; the Rhode Island School of Design, 2,337. That’s a total of over 25,000 students – not counting faculty and staff.

The City of Providence has only 160,000 residents. That means that the universities’ students make up over 15 percent of the city’s population. The proposed tax would bring in $7,500,000 per year – {$150/semester} X {25,000 students} X {two semesters/year}; in a budget of $616,742,527, that’s only one percent of the expenditures. The mayor could easily believe in good faith that the students are getting off lightly.

I’m not saying whether students should or shouldn’t be taxed; I’m just saying that calling it “greed” sounds like knee-jerk “all taxes are inherently evil” anti-governmental propaganda.

so taxing education isnt greed? just because the mayor doesnt pocket a cut doesnt make it not greed. how about being greedy for what he can do with that money, like appease townines that get to vote for him?

they have money to spend!-tax them more

what do we tax next, air tithing?

the schools are tax exempt and pay the city millions per year just because and that isnt enough? the students are directly or inderectly paying property taxes where they live. they pay sales taxes. how much more do they owe?

i think the $1000000000 the schools generate anually more than makes up anything they ‘owe’ the city.

Are you really surprised at this? Politicians in every state routinely impose taxes on tourists (e.g., taxes on hotels and transportation companies) because they don’t vote in that jurisdiction.

The schools agreed to pay $50,000,000 over 20 years – that’s 2.5 million a year, or about $1,000 per student. That would be 2.7 percent of Brown University’s $36,928 tuition revenue. Adding $150 per student per semester would change the figure to 3.5 percent. And why do you think they agreed to make the payment? Out of the sheer altruism of their blessed little hearts? No: they volunteered to make the payments in an effort to avoid other taxes being imposed.

By the way, that “billion-dollars in economic activity” claim isn’t a billion dollars they paid to the city; it’s just a set of economic activities that the universities claim are connected to them (and therefore, presumably, the city could tax those activities). But it ignores the fact that, if the tax-exempt universities weren’t there, other economic entities would be. For instance, they’re claiming they “generate economic activity” because the students buy food, buy clothes, generate garbage, and use utilities like electricity and water. But commercial establishments’ customers would also buy food, buy clothes, generate garbage, and use utilities like electricity and water, and they would pay taxes where the universities don’t. It’s just as valid to say that the universities depress economic activity to only a billion dollars instead of two, three, or four billion dollars.

yes i understand that ecnomic activity doesnt directly equal taxes paid, but it does do a lot for the economy, probably more than the local goverment does.

it is no garuntee other things would be there if the university wasnt. there would imediately be less jobs and less consumers. something would have to come to reattract those people in, odds are most of those students werent already providence citizens there to spend money with or without school. so there is no way you could claim the school depresses the economy besides a wild guess.

I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that the whole economic activity argument is speculative; that was my point. I’ve never liked the whole “We create [jobs / taxable revenue / value / and so forth]” argument you always hear in these situations. My point about the billion dollars supposedly generated by the universities is that it’s an inherently suspect argument. The students buy meals at the universities’ dining facilities, which does in fact increase the economic activity in the area; but that revenue isn’t taxed! The students need medical care; but the student health services aren’t taxed. There are some dollars (e.g., installation and maintenance of traffic-control systems) that would be there regardless, while there are others (e.g., police overtime for sports events and commencement exercises) that are there only because of the universities but are negative costs rather than positive revenues. Sure, there might not be anything in any particular location if the university weren’t there; but then the roads might not have to be as wide, and the utilities and infrastructure might not have to be as large. The whole thing is speculative.

Which is why I say to discount it.

The point I’m making is that the universities have economic impacts on their localities, but those impacts are both positive and negative. They make more artistic things (plays, concerts, etc.) available to the public than there otherwise would be, but skew demand for such things to those that are affordable by college students. They benefit businesses that cater to college students, but they increase traffic and other burdens to the entire population. They perform volunteer and low-cost service to the city, but they increase costs for police, fire, and rescue. It just goes on and on, and there’s no way the president of the Rhode Island private colleges association quoted in the article can honestly say anything like “These colleges produced this specific dollar value to the city this year.”

He isn’t proposing to tax education, but students – something else altogether. I wonder if $150/student is actually sufficient to make up for increased police and emergency services, vandalism, decreased property values, &c.

thats just semantics. only people getting educated would face this tax. its a tax you pay to get educated there. that makes it a tax on education. is sales tax a tax on people, or a tax on a sale? people pay taxes things are taxed.

Rhode Island taxes health-care providers, too. Surely you agree that medical care is more important than education, right? So what’s wrong with a tax on an education that – especially considering we’re talking about Brown University, an elite Ivy League institution – will be an incredible resume-boosting line item that will help ensure wealth for the recipients once they graduate?

without education we’d have no healthcare providers, at least none i’d go to.

the second part, well that really disgusts me as an Americian. i want to be charitable, but really? 'they go to a good school, theyre ensured to be rich, lets tax them’. what do you want to do, spread a little of their wealth around? if people dont like it they can go to a good school too instead of trying to underhandly nickle and dime it out of the hard working students. words like communism and elitist dont seem to do justice to this.

No offense, but I see it as exactly the opposite: in today’s society, everything is taxed: restaurants, taxis, doctors, hunting, driving, buying things, earning income, and on and on and on. But the students claim they should be exempt. Why?

They can’t credibly claim hardship; they’re paying $36,928 in tuition at Brown, and less than half of their students receive need-based aid. The proposed tax ($150 per student per semester) is less than half of the student health services fee for next year; Brown is charging each student $52,030 next year for tuition, room & board, books, and assorted student fees. Three hundred dollars is insignificant on that scale.

So why should they be exempt? Because they’re poor? Not at that school! And so what if they were? We even tax unemployment benefits (think about that for a second)! Why not tax the cost of an education? Heck, my phone bill contains a “911 tax” to help pay for a free call to 911 if I’m having an emergency. Everything is taxed, and education is no different.

i can see your point that $300 isnt much(1 new textbook), but it seems this is a bad call. even besides the fact that we are slipping compared to the rest of the world in terms of college educations. and yes brown may have plenty of well to do students, but it isnt the only school that this would cover. do you really think the students of ‘the rhose island school of design’(design what? hair clothes? art?-i’ll look i up) have an extra 300 a year? ive been out of undergrad for less than 5 years and i can count on 1 hand the number of people i knew who could have afforded this.

edit-its an art school if anyone else didnt know

The city of Providence quite clearly gets a significant overall gain from having the schools located there. I do not see any justification for a tax.

I see a lot of justification for a tax. Actually, I think it should be around $500 per year, and not $150 which is way too little. Students use city water, they use the city sewage; they speed around in their cars causing havoc. Police are called many times to quiet down their loud parties which are disturbing their neighbors who have to go to work in the morning. Students use the city parks and many other facilities. So why should the hard working low income families of Providence have to pay for all these services used by these rich students from wealthy families. If they can afford tuition of $30K to $40K per year, then they can afford a small tax of about $500 per semester to pay for all the city services that they are now using for free.

The income for the city, both public and private sector, far exceeds the costs you mention. As has been mentioned, the schools bring a huge amount of money into the local economy and thousands of good jobs. So that is not justification.

Not to mention that they already pay for water and sewage (or the school does, either way).

Further, if there is a problem with some students being ill-behaved, it is wrong to punish all for it. A better solution would be to have fines levied against those who are caught “causing havoc”.

You have to consider that many students are just normal kids who are studying hard. Most of them are not ill-behaved at all.

Finally, $500 per semester is not a small tax. That is a large tax. And for a student who, say, is paying for their education with grants, loans, and scholarships (as I am), it might be very difficult indeed.

There are also other costs, such as snow removal in the wintertime. Students can’t have it all for free. They should learn to pay their way just like everyone else, especially the ones from wealthy families. Why should the poor working class people who are struggling along day to day to make ends meet, many of them out of a job in this current depression, why should they have to bear this burden so that students from rich and wealthy families can go to exclusive schools and graduate and be a financial success and forget about the poor working class people of Providence, while the poor have to pay the taxes to support the city services for these pampered students? And what about the neighbors who have to listen to this loud percussion rock music at the parites of these students. Shouldn’t the poor working class person people have a right to be able to get some sleep in their own houses, especially when they have to get up the next morning to work, unlike these partying students?

I doubt that the other costs, including snow removal, add up to $500 per student per semester. Or even $150 per student per semester.

And far from having “it all for free”, they pay a quite a large sum of money to the school as well as for any living arrangements they have.

They should learn to pay their way just like everyone else, especially the ones from wealthy families.

“Especially” ones from wealthy families? I am sorry, but this country was founded on the ideal of equal rights for all. The wealthy cannot be singled out because they are wealthy.

And again, they are paying their way. They pay for tuition, for books, for living expenses, and more.

Why should the poor working class people who are struggling along day to day to make ends meet, many of them out of a job in this current depression, why should they have to bear this burden so that students from rich and wealthy families can go to exclusive schools and graduate and be a financial success and forget about the poor working class people of Providence, while the poor have to pay the taxes to support the city services for these pampered students?

Do you think that the working people would be better off without the schools there? That is absolutely not the case. Without the schools, the working class people would be in even greater difficulty. They would lose jobs and opportunities for advancement. Some businesses would likely close down. It would be terrible for the working class.

And what about the neighbors who have to listen to this loud percussion rock music at the parites of these students. Shouldn’t the poor working class person people have a right to be able to get some sleep in their own houses, especially when they have to get up the next morning to work, unlike these partying students?

That has absolutely nothing to do with taxing students. Rather, it is a matter of law enforcement and local government. If loud music and the like is a problem, then levy a fine on the offenders. Taxing everyone because you are upset at a few would not even deter the parties you are complaining about. But in contrast, a fine for such parties would most definitely cause them to become rare.

Now for general comments…

First, despite whatever costs may be incurred by students, it is demonstrably certain that their benefit to the economy of the community far outweighs those costs. The schools employ thousands. Faculty, student, and school needs bring huge sums of money into the local businesses - therefore ensuring the employment and well-being of a great many people of working class and otherwise.

Second, when examining any social policy matter, one cannot simply look at one group and say “Oh, they deserve to be taxed because they are rich”. Rather, one has to examine the effect if such a tax were to be levied on ALL college students. The answer, of course, is that many would suffer and some would suffer greatly because of such a tax. And if one wants to suggest that only “rich” students should be taxed, then that would be class discrimination.

In conclusion, unless it can be proven that:

  1. The net effect of the schools on the community is negative.

and

  1. The tax should be levied on ALL college students at ALL schools.

then it is not justified to levy this tax.

Why do the working class have to pay for the law enforcement and local government when it would be the wealthy students partying all night long causing the problems? Poor people have to have some time to sleep so that they can get up the next morning to work for a living.

Really? You mean they cannot be required to pay a higher percentage of their income for taxes than those from the lower income brackets? When did this law go into effect?

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