On "College Goal Sunday," Brown Reveals That Northeast Ohioans Have More Than $285 Million in Unclaimed Tuition Tax Credits

At Tri-C, Brown Releases County-by-County Estimate on Number of Northeast Ohio Families Missing Out on Key Tax Credit; Only 35 Percent of Eligible Students Utilized Credit in 2009 Brown Asks Ohio College and University Presidents for Help Informing Students and Families of American Opportunity Tax Credit – Which Gives $2,500 Tax Credit Each Year to Families for College Tuition Expenses

PARMA, OH— Families in Northeast Ohio have more than $285 million in unclaimed college tuition tax credits, according to a report released today by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Today—a nationwide day dedicated to informing prospective college students about college affordability options—Brown announced a campaign to make sure all eligible Ohio families utilize a $2,500 college tuition tax credit, known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Brown visited Cuyahoga Community College in Parma to call on Ohio college and university presidents to help inform the families of students enrolled in Ohio colleges of the AOTC.

At Tri-C, Brown released a report, shown below, with county-by-county figures on the number of Northeast Ohio families missing out on the credit, which provided Ohio families paying tuition costs with an average of $1,918 in tax relief per student in 2009. The analysis showed that approximately 148,892 Ohio families did not claim the credit last year, meaning that these families missed out on more than $285 million in available tax credits.

 “Middle-class Ohio families are missing out on millions of dollars in tax relief for one of the most important investments they make—a college education for their children,” Brown said. “As college costs continue to rise, $2,500 can go a long way toward helping Ohio families afford college costs. While only 35 percent of Ohio families filed for this credit last year, it’s not too late for families to claim this important tax credit.”

 Brown was joined by Sue Kestranek, an adult student at Tri-C who has utilized the AOTC to continue her education while paying living expenses and meeting car payments. Dr. Patricia Rowell, president of Tri-C’s Parma campus, also joined Brown.

The AOTC provides critical relief to middle class families—providing a $1 tax credit for each $1 dollar spent on college tuition—but is only utilized by an estimated 35 percent of Ohio student families. 

County Name

Total Number of Ohioans Enrolled in Higher Education Institutions

Ohioans Eligible for AOTC Who Didn't Claim 

ASHLAND

1,791

1,106

ASHTABULA

5,044

3,115

CARROLL

1,305

806

COLUMBIANA

5,407

3,339

CUYAHOGA

80,546

49,737

GEAUGA

5,338

3,296

HARRISON

739

456

HOLMES

622

384

LAKE

14,448

8,922

LORAIN

18,845

11,637

MAHONING

14,002

8,646

MEDINA

10,377

6,408

PORTAGE

8,105

5,005

STARK

23,486

14,503

SUMMIT

30,709

18,963

TRUMBULL

11,023

6,807

TUSCARAWAS

4,894

3,022

WAYNE

4,440

2,742

This estimate is based on a recent report released by the Treasury Department, which estimates that 35 percent of eligible families in Ohio did not file for the AOTC in 2009.  This percent was then applied to the county-by-county data released by the Ohio Board of Regents on the number of students enrolled in higher education.  This then took into consideration that 95 percent of Ohio families fall within the threshold that would qualify them for the credit.

 This analysis showed that as many as 148,892 families in northeast Ohio that could benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit did not claim it during the last filing year. At an average tax credit of $1,918, this means that there was more than $285 million in unclaimed American Opportunity Tax Credits during the last filing year. Ohioans can claim the credit by amending their prior tax returns. The Cleveland IRS office can be contacted at (216) 522-4048.

 The AOTC provides a maximum tax credit of $2,500 for qualified tuition and related expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education. It was originally included in the Recovery Act and was recently extended for another two years as part of the bipartisan tax compromise.

This Sunday, January 13, is known as College Goal Sunday. College Goal Sunday events are designed to give prospective and current students, free, on-site, professional assistance filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form; provide access to financial aid professionals about financial aid resources and how to apply; and supply information regarding statewide student services and admission requirements.

There are more than 40 Ohio College Goal Sunday events taking place this year. More information about Ohio College Goal Sunday can be found here. The full text of Brown’s letter to Ohio college and university presidents is below.

Dear Ohio College and University Presidents:

 Ohio is the proud home of more than 90 diverse private and public institutes of higher education enrolling more than half a million students. Together, these institutions are working to strengthen Ohio’s workforce by graduating students with the skills needed for success in the twenty-first century economy.

 Unfortunately, cost continues to be a significant barrier to college completion. According to a recent study on why students fail to finish college, nearly two-thirds of students cited having to work and make money as a reason why they did not complete their program. More than half of these students also cited their inability to afford school tuition and fees as a factor in their decision to drop out.

 For these reasons, I ask for your help in ensuring all students are taking full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).  This credit, which was originally included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was recently extended for two years as part of the Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, provides a maximum tax credit of $2,500 for qualified tuition and related expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education. This partially refundable tax credit, which replaced and expanded the HOPE tuition credit, is helping to make college more affordable for millions of middle-class families.

 Unfortunately, in Ohio only 35% of eligible students utilized this credit in 2009.  Clearly thousands of Ohioans are missing out on millions of dollars in tuition assistance. I ask that you use any resources that you have at your disposal to inform your prospective and current students about the AOTC along with information about their need to claim 2010 higher education expenses on their April tax filings. I am confident that your efforts will help lead to higher college completion rates and thus a stronger workforce.

 Additional information about this tax credit is available at the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=211309,00.html. I have also established a page on my website devoted to this important tax benefit.

 Thank you in advance for your efforts to help make college more affordable and accessible for Ohioans.

 

 Sincerely,                                         

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

cc: Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, Ohio Board of Regents.

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