Linking Tax Credits to Service

College leaders just about uniformly endorse the idea of community service by students. And college leaders just about uniformly endorse the idea of tax breaks to help pay for college. But combine those two concepts? Higher education isn’t excited about that idea.

During his campaign for president, Barack Obama did like it, and proposed that some service requirements accompany new tax breaks. But last year’s stimulus legislation, which created some additional tax breaks, didn’t require service. Instead it required the U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury to conduct a study of the idea. While there have not been signs that the Obama administration is actively pursuing legislation, the two Cabinet departments have formally requested that anyone concerned about the issue respond to a series of questions:

  • "Should students be required to fulfill a community service requirement for receipt of an education credit?"
  • "If there were a community service requirement, should the institutions providing post-secondary education and training (hereafter, colleges) be required to administer it?"
  • "If colleges had to oversee such requirements, how would they "ensure that there are meaningful community service opportunities available for all students?" 
  • "And if colleges had to oversee the requirements, how would they "ensure that eligible students are identified and able to claim the credit while students who failed to fulfill the community service requirement are not able to claim the credit?"

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