Archive for Thursday, May 14, 2009

A tax on college students?

Providence mayor thinks it’s about time, but students are riled

May 14, 2009


Reader poll
The mayor of Providence, R.I., wants to tax students attending private colleges $150 per semester to help cover the city services they use. Should Lawrence consider a similar tax?

or See the results without voting


— The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.

Mayor David Cicilline said the fee would raise between $6 million and $8 million a year for the city, which is facing a $17 million deficit.

If enacted, it would apparently be the first time a U.S. city has directly taxed students just for being enrolled.

The proposal is still in its early stages. But it has riled some students, who say it would unfairly saddle them with the city’s financial woes and overlook their volunteer work and other contributions, including money spent in restaurants, bars and stores.

“We want to support the city as best we can, but financially is not really what we can afford to give,” said Heather Lee, president of the Brown Graduate Student Council. “We’re more able to provide labor, we’re more able to apply the things that we’re learning in the classroom, than we are to write a $300 check.”

Cities often look for revenue from universities to compensate for their tax-exempt status, and many schools already make voluntary payments to local governments. Providence’s four private schools — Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design — agreed in 2003 to pay the city nearly $50 million over 20 years.

The idea of a student head tax has been floated before in other cities, generally to start discussions about collecting money from universities in lieu of taxes.

Cicilline’s office said there is no study showing how much students cost Providence for the use of police and fire protection and other services.


gr 9 years, 1 month ago

Think of how much money Lawrence is missing out on by not taxing the students. What better way to penalize the students? They are only a burden and we don't want them here anyway. Keep raising the penalty fee until they go away.

Ralph Reed 9 years, 1 month ago

gr. I contend that KU itself is raising a penalty fee every time it raises tuition. Many students are priced out of the market when that happens.

Why not $50 a semester student "head tax" levied on KU? As of 7 Nov 2008 KU had 29,400 undergrad, grad and professional students. Since prices keep going up, let's peg that population at 25K. That's $1,250,000 each for the for the Fall & Spring semesters. Figure about 40% of that for the summer, and you have $250,000. That works out to $2,750,000 per year.

That's not too much of a burden - students on average probably spend more than $50 per semester on coffee, beer and so on.

What do you think Lawrence could do for our infrastructure with that much money?

I'm me. Who are you behind your hood of anonymity?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 1 month ago

Seems to me that Lawrence generates money in three ways-- sales taxes, property taxes, and user fees. With the exception of those living in dorms, students pay all those taxes just like everyone else. So if there are going to be additional taxes raised to make things "equal," having dorms pay property taxes is about the only option, and I doubt that KU would be willing to give up its exemption.

temperance 9 years, 1 month ago

Esq2eB -- We're in full agreement on this one and I appreciate your ideological consistency. (see:

BigPrune 9 years, 1 month ago

Esq2eB, KU does not offer night classes in Lawrence for anyone, period. Person "A" will have to drive all the way to KU's Edwards Campus in Overland Park.

I say tax the students. Make them pay their fair share. The analogy is the same if the nay sayers apply it to all the businesses who have been turned away from Lawrence because they wanted a tax abatement even though they would be creating jobs. Since KU (our largest employer) doesn't pay property taxes - they should be put in the same boat as a business that wanted a tax abatement and didn't get it. Those businesses ended up going to Ottawa, Topeka, or the Kansas City metro instead.

I would keep the students from voting on this, since they are only temporary residents if it were ever put on the ballot unless said student lived in Lawrence for 5 consecutive years. The students voted and got their free T-Bus rides subsidized by the permanent residents. Now they can help out the rest of us. Look at the giant fire station on 19th & Iowa Street built on land owned by the KU Endowment that the City leases for a $1 dollar per year. That was built there specifically for KU's protecfion. KU wanted to charge Lawrence for the National Championship parade held downtown. Now is the time for KU to pay the piper.

hammysammy 9 years, 1 month ago

Bigprune- KU does offer night classes. Not a ton of them, but they're in existence. I've taken some of them. They usually meet one night a week for the whole 3 hours. And the Edwards campus has a lot of night class offerings as well.

madameX 9 years, 1 month ago

KU does too offer night classes. At least they did for the Fall of 2008 when I looked them up, maybe things have changed.

Also, I don't think KU students actually get to ride the T for free. They don't have to pay a fare like other riders, but I think they pay a transportation fee with their tuition, which goes to fund what is now or will soon be the joint City/KU bus system. I'm not 100% sure about that but I seem to remember reading it somewhere.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 1 month ago

BigPrune-- as I already pointed out-- with some exceptions, students pay the same taxes as everyone else-- sales, property (included in their rent,) and user fees. One exception I didn't think about earlier would be property taxes/tags on their cars. But if they are going to be charged an extra tax in Douglas County because of that, Lawrence commuters need to start paying extra taxes to Shawnee and Johnson counties.

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