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by Marcie Kagawa, staff writer

Students have been saying for years that paying for college tuition is difficult enough without the additional cost of textbooks and course materials.
The federal government is finally listening.
The new economic stimulus package signed into law on Feb. 17 by President Barack Obama includes a higher education tax credit that expands the scope of the two existing credits so that college textbook and course material expenses are now eligible.
Aimee Gushikuma, a HPU freshman majoring in anthropology, said she would take all the help she could get. “The cost of college textbooks is ridiculous. We already have to pay thousands of dollars for our schooling, and some of us have to pay for room and board as well. Spending hundreds of dollars on books that we’ll probably only use for one semester is frustrating.”
According to the IRS, the current Hope Scholarship Credit allows a tax credit to be claimed on up to $1,800 a year for the first two years of higher education. Taxpayers who spend $9,000 or more per year on their college expenses can select the Lifetime Learning tax credit, which allows them to claim 20 percent of up to $10,000 for credits—a maximum of $2,000. These credits apply to tuition, student fees, books, supplies, and equipment “paid directly to the college as a condition of enrollment or attendance.”
The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will be in effect in 2009 and 2010, expands the definition of higher education expenses to include textbooks and course materials and raises the maximum eligible credit amount to $2,500. Also, up to $1,000 of the tax credit will be refundable, regardless of tax liability. (Neither the Hope Credit nor the Lifetime Learning Credit is refundable—if you could claim $1,800 in tax credits, but owed no income tax, you would not receive a refund). This means that even if you do not earn enough income to have to pay taxes, or if your tax credits exceed the amount of your taxes, you may receive a refund check from the government.
“While textbooks and other course materials are both required and vital to a student’s academic success, they are rarely covered by traditional federal financial aid,” said Richard Hershmann, the director of government relations for the National Association of College Stores (NACS) in an online newsletter. “Combined with proactive campus-based efforts underway to make course materials more affordable for students, the new tax credit will go a long way to help students succeed in school and in the economy.”
This kind of statistic is the very reason why HPU Bookstore manager, Shellee Heen, supports the American Opportunity Tax Credit. “I’m for anything that would help lower the cost of textbooks for students.”
The HPU Bookstore is doing its part to try to lower textbook expenses for HPU students. According to Heen, the bookstore currently offers five different programs to help students save. Students can buy used textbooks at discounted prices; they can sell their textbooks back to the bookstore at the end of the semester for 50 percent of the current list price; they can buy some textbooks in e-book form for about two-thirds of the textbook price; they can take advantage of a bookstore bonus stamp card worth $10 off a bookstore purchase after completed (after $200 in purchases); and they can purchase old editions of textbooks if their content is deemed to be nearly identical to that of the new editions.
HPU communications major, Shannon Nash, junior, said she takes advantage of some of these bookstore programs, such as buying used books. “I like that the bookstore is trying to reduce costs for students, and I appreciate the effort on HPU’s part.”
Heen suggests that students “shop early because used books go first. The same thing goes for selling books back—we don’t want students to sell it back if they will still need it to study for finals, but the earlier they try to sell it back, the better the chances they have of getting the HPU price, 50 percent of the current new price, and being able to sell it back at all.” Students should save their receipts so they can claim the American Oppurtunity tax credit.
 
 
 

 

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