Rep. Michael Harrington (D-Mass.) introduced on Thursday a bill to remove the burden of college tuition from parents by creating a government trust fund to make direct loans to students.
The loans, at a maximum of $5,000 a year for three years, would be repaid through payroll deductions in small yearly installments on a long-termed basis that could extend for the duration of a recipient's working lifetime.
Any sophomore, junior or senior would be eligible, regardless of family income.
Harrington's proposal, like those of President Carter and Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), is aimed at easing the financial crunch experienced at college time by middle-income families that cannot qualify for schorlarship assistance.
Tuitions at some private universities and college broke the $5,000 barrier for the first time this year.
The administration bill would expand existing ioan and scholarship programs to make more middle-income families eligible. The Moynihan-Packwood bill would provide tuition tax credits to elementary and secondary as well as college students, regardless of family income.
Neither bill, Harrington said ata press conference yesterday, "would provide more than a few hundred dollars of annual relief for families facing obligations in the thousands of dollars."
His bill, Harrington said, would shift the total tuition burden from families the people who would benefit most from a college education, the students. He said a college education is worth about $230,000 during a full working lifetime.
Under Harrington's proposal, tuition loans would be repaid through the Internal Revenue Service at a rate beginning at about 2 percent of adjusted gross income per year.
A student who earned $10,000 in his first year after graduation, for example, would pay $200 in his first year. By the time the student earned $30,000 a year, the rate would rise to about 4 percent and the payback amount would be $1,200. The repayment would be withheld by IRS, as taxes are now.
By the time he retired his debt, the average recipient would have repaid 150 percent of the loan amount to the government. The maximum loan amount, over three years, would be $15,000, with a maximum payback of $22,500.
The money repaid to the government would go into a trust fund, Harrington said, so that after 15 to 18 years the fund would be self-sustaining.
The government's current student loan program is open only to students from families with incomes low enough to qualify for aid under a complex formula. The program has come under heavy criticism in recent years because of default rate of about 13 percent.
Harrington estimated the cost of his program during the first 15 years would be $3.1 billion a year, assuming existing programs remain in place. The Carter program would cost $1.46 billion, and the Packwood-Moynihan package $4.5 billion.
Harrington's proposal is the joint creation of Harrington and John R. Silber, president of Boston University.
A Gallup Poll released yesterday reported that by a 51-to-34 margin, the public prefers income tax credits to expanded financial aid programs to pay for tuition costs.