Alum-headed parent group lobbies for tuition tax deduction

When she heard sending three kids to college could cost $900,000, one parent decided it was time to take action.

Upset by the rising cost of college tuition, Donna Constantinople, Weinberg ’69, who now has a daughter at NU, joined College Parents of America, a nonprofit college advocacy group headed by NU alumnus James Boyle.

“I felt that there was a need for current and future college parents to be represented in Washington,” said Boyle, Weinberg ’79 and president of College Parents of America.

For members, the organization can supply informational resources for parents on the applications and financial issues. The group also lobbied for college-tuition tax deduction in 2001, a policy that allows families to write off income taxes from higher education.

Taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $65,000 to $130,000 can minimally deduct $3,000 annually for joint returns. In Fall 2003, U.S. Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., introduced a bill that would extend the tax deduction, which expires in 2005.

“The issues are so pressing,” Constantinople said. “I’m also a grandmother. The issue of how (my family) gets educated is a very personal issue for me.”

College Parents of America also provides corporate discounts for members to 1-800 FLOWERS.COM, MasterCard, MBNA America, Wachovia and Peterson’s Guides, and are working to expand the variety of companies. In addition to parents, universities also can become members to receive the benefits of the organization. Sixty-two schools currently are members.

The organization consists of smaller, private schools that join the group because they charge higher tuition and realize the importance of communicating with families about investments, Boyle said. Public and community colleges are more difficult to recruit because the relationship between parent-student relationship is much different than at a private universities, he added.

NU is still seeking more information from the organization before it joins, according to Boyle. He has suggested institutional membership to Mary Desler, the university’s associate vice president for student affairs.

The membership would cost NU $495 annually and would allow parents to become members at half price. A one-year membership for parents at full price is $36.50.

“It’s a good thing to have leading institutions help College Parents of America get off the ground,” Constantinople said.

Alyssa Rosato, a Weinberg junior, said she has no problem with NU joining the organization, although she thinks communication between parents and the university already is strong. The main problem is not something College Parents of America could fix, she said.

“It’s more a matter of distance,” Rosato said. “(My parents) are certainly aware of what’s going on.”

Constantinople said she would like to see continued concentration of financial issues — especially for lower-income parents — and a growth in the institution.

Although the organization continues to lobby Washington and recruit new members, Constantinople said she hopes more people will recognize the group’s significance.

“I’ve seen the Washington policy scene,” Constantinople said. “If no organizations represent college students, we are going to be weakened.”