WASHINGTON – The 220,000 students attending college in Maryland could see tax deductions on up to $10,000 of their tuition under a proposal offered Tuesday night by President Clinton, said a spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
During Clinton’s State of the Union address, the president proposed a tuition exemption for all college students and a new, merit-based scholarship program.
The proposed scholarship would award the top 5 percent of high school graduates across the country $1,000 grants toward college tuition.
Almost 40,000 high school students graduated in Maryland in 1994, Maryland Department of Education spokesman Charles Herndon said. Offering the scholarship to the top Maryland students would cost taxpayers an estimated $2 million yearly.
Each of Clinton’s proposals received support from a Maryland member of Congress.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Baltimore, said the tax deduction would enable more students to pursue higher education. The White House estimated that 16.5 million students nationwide could benefit from it, but offered no further details.
“I think that the deduction is something that people across the board and their families can benefit from,” Mfume said.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, applauded the scholarship idea. “We need to recognize scholarship,” he said. “Most scholarships are given on the basis of need,” rather than merit.
The president Tuesday night also urged support for AmeriCorps, a volunteer service program enacted in 1993 and which many Republicans have targeted to kill.
Clinton had requested more than $800 million for AmeriCorps for fiscal ’96, to increase the number of volunteers. He has said the program helps communities help themselves and also allows thousands of young people to pay for college.
There are almost 900 AmeriCorps volunteers in Maryland working in 24 different programs across the state, said Lynn Bopp, spokeswoman for the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Service. The projects range from helping the homeless to protecting the environment, she said.
But Republicans have called the AmeriCorps welfare for the well-to-do and took votes last year to phase it out. Clinton vetoed Congress’ bill Dec. 18, sending it back to the House.
Gilchrest echoed Republican misgivings about the money that volunteers are paid to participate, saying he did not think “it should become an entitlement program.”
Bopp argued the program is cost-effective. “Every dollar that is spent on the program generates $2.60 worth of value in service,” she said, citing General Accounting Office figures.
Volunteers are paid an average of $4.60 an hour and receive health care benefits and free child care. They are also awarded $4,725 at the end of their one-year service for college, Bopp said. -30-