Colleges Column

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A disproportionate share of the tax benefits that help families meet the cost of college goes to families with incomes above the national median, according to a study released this month by the Washington office of the College Board.

"Of the existing tax provisions, only benefits from the exclusion of scholarship and fellowship assistance accrue primarily to lower-income families," the study said. "All other existing tax provisions, however, probably go disproportionately to families with incomes above the median."

The higher-income families received an estimated 90 percent of tax savings from the practice of shifting taxable income from parents to children. They also received 85 percent of savings from deducting interest on student loans; 75 percent of savings for extending the dependent status of college students; and 50 percent of the tax savings for job-related educational aid, according to the study.

The study indicated that in 1982, the federal government lost an estimated $1.85 billion in revenue as the result of tax breaks for college. Over half of the revenue loss (about $1 billion) was due to the exemption for college-age students who are still in college, and 25 percent of the revenue loss (about $500 million) came as a result of the exclusion of scholarship and fellowship assistance from taxation. Lost federal tax revenue from gifts, trusts, and loans was estimated at $300 million, according to the study.

A plan to allow up to $250 in tuition tax credits would cost the government more than $1 billion; tax deductions of up to $2,000 for savings in special accounts for college expenses would cost $1.5 billion; and tax-free treatment for college savings accounts would cost $500 million in lost tax revenue, the study said.

Copies of the study, "Tax Breaks for College: Current and Proposed Tax Provisions That Help Families Meet College Costs," are available at a cost of $6 from Department B13, College Board Publications, Box 886, New York, N.Y. 10101.

Announcing the 117 recipients of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation's program of Mellon Fellowships in the humanities for 1984, Robert F. Goheen, the director of the program, criticized finalists for their poor foreign-language preparation.

Mr. Goheen said the selection committee "was troubled by the frequent inadequacy and sometimes the sheer lack of foreign-language preparation" among the finalists. "The committee would like it known that foreign-language competence, or realistic plans to acquire it, weigh heavily in its judgments on candidates for these awards," he said.

The fellowship program is designed to encourage outstanding college seniors or recent graduates to pursue academic careers in the humanities and to become the nation's next generation of leading scholars.

In addition to paying for tuition and fees, the scholarships come with a cash stipend of $7,500. The awards are renewable for a second year, and in some cases the Mellon fellows can receive support to complete their doctoral dissertations.

In an attempt to encourage more high-school students to study foreign languages, the faculty assembly of the University of Minnesota's college of liberal arts last month approved a regulation that would require all students who want to enroll in popular foreign-language courses to complete three years of language study in high school. Students who do not have high-school credit would be required to take the language courses at the university for no credit.

The requirements will next be considered by the Minnesota Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Board of Regents.

The entrance standard would be phased in over a three-year period, beginning in the fall of 1986.

The proportion of students entering the college with three years of high-school language dropped from 63.8 percent in 1967 to 17.1 percent in 1981, despite the fact that language classes are available to 87 percent of Minnesota's high-school students, according to Fred E. Lukermann, dean of the college of liberal arts.

Several other departments, including chemistry, mathematics, and English, already require high-school courses or proficiency exams for admission to entry-level courses.

High-school students in five Alabama counties that have heavy black populations are being tutored by professors from the area's seven traditionally black colleges to help improve their low scores on college-entrance examinations.

While other Alabama students average a score of 20 out of a possible total of more than 30 points on each section of the American College Testing program's exam, black students average 14. In the five counties that make up Alabama's "black belt," the average is 11.

The program is one of nine collaborative projects with schools being conducted by the Alabama Center for Higher Education, a consortium of traditionally black colleges. The organization is also working to establish a model to monitor and assess the progress of a curriculum-development project in Perry County; to upgrade curriculum in Oakwood County; and to create a model reading, mathematics, and language-arts program for students in grades K-3 in Lowndes County, according to Reynard R. McMillan of the center.

Upwards of 50 faculty members are involved in the projects, which are supported by a $150,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment.

Peterson's Guides, the company that provides statistical profiles and descriptions of colleges to aid students in the admissions process, has made its information available to students and guidance counselors on computer disks.

For $135, the company provides a college-selection-service package that includes four floppy disks that contain information on 1,700 accredited four-year

Vol. 03, Issue 29

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