Have you heard about Luke Ravenstahl’s proposed tuition tax? I may not have all the details exactly right, but the basic gist is this. College students in Pittsburgh will pay a 1% tax to the city on their tuition bill. This is an interesting concept in that students most definitely make use of city services without directly funding them. With this in mind I can respect the mayor’s idea. Nonetheless, while I applaud Mr. Ravenstahl’s creative thinking, I do not believe this will prove to be an effective solution to the city’s budget woes.
After all, college students often consider their home to be nowhere near where they attend school. Colleges compete with other institutions across the country for new students. No one has to go to school in Pittsburgh. If I’m an incoming freshman trying to decide between two comparable institutions I’m going to choose the one that isn’t located in a city that taxes my tuition. If I already attend a Pittsburgh school I probably won’t transfer, but I’ll resent what the city has done to me. It won’t help me want to stay here after my academic career.
Let’s face it, in today’s world colleges are businesses as much as they are places for educating. Pittsburgh’s places of higher learning are some of the city’s strongest assets. Why compromise them?
Certainly, if I begin to collect a one percent tax on all purchases made at Franktuary while other dining alternatives charge no such fee, you, the customer, will be less inclined to choose my place for lunch. It’s as simple as that.
Like it or not, sales tax exists in a closed system. If you live in Pittsburgh, or any number of other cities, you cannot reasonably choose a restaurant where you won’t have to pay it. On the other hand, if you’re a high school senior deciding where to go to school you often have options.
Personally, I’m a fan of options. They hinder powerful forces from doing whatever they please to an otherwise hapless individual. I’d like to believe it’s not inevitable that one day schools in every city across the nation will charge a tuition tax. Now that the idea is out there, it may only be a matter of time.