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PCC Helps Students Take Advantage of Hope "Scholarship"

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Students at Portland Community College will be able to delay winter term tuition and fee payments until Jan. 5, 1998, in order to be eligible for the Hope Scholarship, a new federal tax credit. The new tax legislation applies to tuition and fees paid after Dec. 31, 1997.

Said Jan Coulton, director of PCC Public Affairs/Foundation, "We wanted to give eligible students an opportunity to qualify. So we’ve delayed payment dates to Jan. 5 to allow them to take advantage of the tax credit."

The college has printed information about the Hope Scholarship tax credit — and the delayed payment option — in its winter term schedule of classes, mailed to district residents. It is also printing a message on statements mailed out to students so they are aware of the choice to pay their bill after Jan. 1 for 1998 tax credit eligibility.

The winter term at PCC begins on Jan. 5 and approximately 33,000 students will enroll in classes. Returning students are able to register as early as Dec. 1; registration for new students begins Dec. 5.

The Hope legislation is part of the federal Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. It is not really a scholarship, which usually awards students money in advance to help pay for classes. It is a tax credit one can claim when filling out tax forms at the end of the year. It reduces the amount of any owed federal income tax.

It allows eligible students pursuing the first two years of postsecondary education to receive a tax credit for 100 percent of the first $1,000 of tuition and fees and 50 percent of the second $1,000 on their federal income tax. Students must be enrolled at least half time (six credit hours) in a degree, certificate or other program leading to a recognized education credential. The measure takes effect on Jan. 1, 1998, and applies to education provided in academic periods beginning after that date.

The Clinton administration has made the Hope scholarship the centerpiece of its 1997 education tax-cut package, vowing to make the first two years of college the new standard for U.S. students. The tax credit is one of a series of measures aimed at making a college education affordable to the majority of low- and middle-income citizens.

Hope does come with a few strings attached. Individual filers who earn more than $50,000 and joint filers with adjusted gross income exceeding $100,000 do not qualify.

And individuals convicted of a federal or state felony drug offense during the tax year for which they claim the credit will not qualify. Students who receive other forms of financial aid such as a Pell Grant will have the amount of their eligibility for Hope reduced by the amount of the aid they receive. In addition, the tax credit is not a "refundable" credit. For example, if you owe $1,000 in taxes, you can only claim a $1,000 credit even if you have $1,500 in eligible expenses.

For information about the impact of the Hope Scholarship tax credit on one’s taxes, it is best to consult the IRS or a tax advisor.

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