During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln would meet regularly in the White House with ordinary Americans, even during the darkest days of the war. He called these meetings his “public opinion baths.”

College costs are sky-high and climbing. Right now, many families across Ohio are waiting on their financial aid packages. For many students and their families, those aid packages can force agonizing choice over budgets, savings, and which school to attend — or whether a student can afford school at all.

Investing in college shouldn’t bankrupt families. We can and must do more to make college affordable for middle class families.

That’s why I am supporting legislation that would increase and expand eligibility for a tax credit that supports working families paying for a college education. Millions of students and their parents already take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which allows families to offset some of the cost of college tuition.

This credit is a lifeline for many families struggling to afford college and give their kids the best-possible education. Last week my office released a report showing that more than 373,000 Ohio families used the AOTC tax credit in 2012 and saved more than $426 million.

My legislation would expand the AOTC, increasing the savings a family can receive up to a maximum of $3,000 per year, per student. It would also make the credit available to all families earning up to $200,000 per year. And it would make the AOTC permanent, eliminating uncertainty for the families who depend on it.

College is the surest onramp to the middle class. But its price is out of reach for too many students, and it breaks the bank for too many families.

And each year students take on more and more debt to finance their educations. It’s crippling Ohioans and hurting our economy. That’s why providing help to families now, before students take on even more debt, is critical.

I urge all Ohioans to visit the IRS website and find out if they are eligible to claim the AOTC. While Tax Day has passed, you can claim a past AOTC for any of the past three years by filing an amended tax return. Information on filing amended returns can be found on the IRS website.

Ohioans are already saving money with this tax credit, and could save thousands more if we pass this legislation. A college education shouldn’t be bankrupting Ohio families.