Subsidizing Higher Education Through Tax and Spending Programs

Brief

Subsidizing Higher Education Through Tax and Spending Programs

Abstract

In 1997 Congress enacted a number of tax benefits directed toward helping middle- and upper-middle income groups meet rising college costs. This shift in goals and strategies raises concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the evolving federal approach to higher education. This policy brief analyzes who benefits from the major direct spending program, Pell grants, and the three tax subsidies that most closely resemble grants, the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits and the deduction for tuition and fees. In addition, the brief assesses the potential impacts of these direct spending and tax programs on the affordability of college and the college-going rates of potential students.

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