Ohio college students and their families failed to claim $700 million in American Opportunity Tax Credits to apply toward tuition and expenses in 2009.

In Butler County alone, 11,223 eligible people left more than $21.5 million in unclaimed funds.

“That is money that could make the difference between someone getting a college education or not,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who called affordable tuition an important part of the economic recovery.

The credits were initially part of the federal stimulus bill and were recently extended through 2012, Brown said. Only 35 percent of those eligible in the state received the credit, which paid an average of $1,918. The maximum return paid $2,500.

Single taxpayers making $80,000 or less and couples making $160,000 or less, are eligible for the tax credit, according to the Internal Revenue Service website. More than 380,000 people statewide who were eligible didn’t claim the tax credit in 2009.

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