This week, over 100 college students from across the country will venture to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of the 2009 Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act. Their goal is simple. Each student will meet with his or her representative to advocate for the passage of the bill. The creation of the act is part of a campaign to drive down the overall cost of college and is critical to the longevity and sustainability of safe and affordable non-university owned housing on college campuses across the country.
The 2009 Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act proposes to alter the federal tax structure to include a tax deduction for people who make monetary contributions to non-university and non-profit housing, such as fraternities and sororities. The current federal tax structure discourages people from donating to non-profit, non-university owned houses by not granting them tax deductions for their donations. Currently, an individual will only receive a tax deduction for a donation to a non-profit housing structure if the house is university-owned.
Changing the law will undeniably lead to more charitable contributions to non-university affiliated housing on campus. These houses can use tax-deductible contributions to renovate their facilities by updating fire safety devices or replacing old pipes, thus driving down the cost of living in such housing.
Here at the University, over 4,000 students live in non-University owned and not-for-profit housing each year. Many students who reside in these facilities don’t consider alumni contributions when trying to cope with the increasing cost of housing on campus. They simply force themselves to take out more loans. However, loans shouldn’t be the only answer. Many of the 460,000 living University alumni lived in non-University affiliated housing and might possibly take advantage of the opportunity to make a donation for the betterment of that facility if granted tax deductions for their contributions.
University alumni of fraternities or sororities won’t receive the tax benefits for donating to their non-profit chapter house, but would receive these benefits for donating to University housing. Where is the logic in that?
Chi Phi Fraternity President Matthew Eral faces the same struggle. Eral stated, “My chapter’s housing corporation is already non-profit and there is no reason that our alumni should not be able to donate tax-free to a social, academic, and philanthropic student organization.”
In many cities, there are new regulations and safety codes that deem current houses unfit. Rent and security deposits across collegiate campuses are increasing for students who live in non-University owned housing. And current students will shoulder the entire burden of keeping their house up to date.
It is necessary for the continued success of non-affiliated housing that the students and faculty at this University get behind the bill. Since so many undergraduate students live in non-profit, non-University owned housing, passage of the bill will have a great effect on the cost of living in these facilities.
On Tuesday, MSA unanimously voted to support the passage of the bill in Congress. This monumental decision should set a precedent for the rest of campus. Regardless of your affiliation, lowering the cost of higher education is something every student at this University can relate to. Thus, we urge you to join us in our fight. Please contact your representative and ask them to support the 2009 Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act. We must make our voices heard in order to keep college affordable.
Brendan Friedman is the chair of MSA’s Greek Relations Committee and Julia Friedman is a Public Policy senior.