The mayor of Providence, R.I., has revived an idea tried a quarter-century ago in Evanston — taxing college students to help fund city services.


The mayor of Providence, R.I., has revived an idea tried a quarter-century ago in Evanston — taxing college students to help fund city services.

Mayor David Cicilline told the Providence Journal he will ask the state legislature to approve a plan that would let him impose a $300 annual fee on students at the four schools in town.

Providence already benefits from an unusual arrangement with its state legislature. Rhode Island and Connecticut are the only two states in the country that provide a subsidy from state tax revenue to towns that host tax-exempt state institutions, universities or hospitals.

The tax help in Rhode Island amounts to 27 percent of the tax that would have been owed on the land if it wasn’t tax exempt. Connecticut, the Journal says, is more generous, coming up with about two-thirds of the foregone revenue.

New Haven, Conn., home to Yale University, collected $37 million under the program this year.

Last year Evanston aldermen pressed local state lawmakers to impose a tax on college endowments — an idea that was not warmly received by the lawmakers.

The aldermen have also tried a number of other strategies recently, so far without any consistent success.

But, after the defeat in the 1980s, aldermen here have shown no inclination yet to revisit the tuition tax issue, and as far as we can tell, they haven’t tried to get the legislature to dole out an impact fee, like Rhode Island and Connecticut do, or share casino revenue with municipalities that host non-profits, as is done in Connecticut.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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20 Comments

  1. How about it Tisdahl?
    It’s time for a change. Taxing Northwestern students seems like a fair and equitable idea that would relieve tax-burdened homeowners.

    Rather than the Evanston City Council raising taxes again, you would think that Mayor Tisdahl with her “great connections” as well as the other recently elected Democrat-backed aldermen can use their political prowess to induce Democrat-dominated state legislators to impose the student tax.

    I mean, Democrats are pretty good at raising taxes. Are they not? Have you looked at your tax bill, lately?

    Relying on federal stimulus money to assist renters in town ain’t gonna cut it.

    1. Tisdahl is out of luck
      I believe NU has since convinced IL legislators to outlaw local taxes on students and tuition. BTW, NU pays no hotel tax on Allen Center – NU sued Evanston over the hotel tax and courts decided NU is exempt.

      northwestern-community-considers-tax-on-student-tuition
      http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/27/style/campus-life-northwestern-community-considers-tax-on-student-tuition.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

      Don’t tax NU students’ tuition
      Chicago Sun-Times | June 1, 1990| Editorials | Copyright
      http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P2-4001135.html

  2. NU’s second Chicago campus
    “It’s time for a change. Taxing Northwestern students seems like a fair and equitable idea that would relieve tax-burdened homeowners.”

    What is fair about it?

    Northwestern students who live off campus are already paying property tax.

    For those who live on campus, what services do they use to justify being taxed?

    Mimi and friends always bring up the Fire Department, which supposedly spends all of its time responding to fires in the labs at Tech and students setting false alarms. This is nonsense..anyway, the athletic event tax (which is a tax on NU) and the hotel taxes more than cover NU’s use of fire services.

    Remember, most of our tax bill goes to supporting our two..yes two..school districts.

    I suggest that the school district boundaries be redrawn….no, not just school boundaries, but municipal boundaries. All NU property shall become part of the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Public Library district. Any tax revenue from renters on NU property would go to CPS, and any kids living on NU property would choose between going to school for free in Rogers Park or paying tuition at another private or public school. People who live on the NU campus would be able to get free library cards in the City of Chicago and be eligible for employment by the City of Chicago. Evanston could no longer tax tickets at athletic events.

    For fire service, NU and Chicago could either contract services with Wilmette or Evanston, or the CFD could build a station on campus.

    NU would also be free to build a hotel on its campus, to keep all of that revenue within the City of Chicago – instead of having it go to the hotels in downtown Evanston.

    This way, the NU campus would no longer be part of the Evanston and all the people who whine about NU not paying taxes would be silenced.

    1. conflict of interest
      Mr Who knows nothing – you are a professor at Kellog? Seems to be a conflict of interest on your part. That is your salary is tied into the students paying more to NU versus them paying any fees to the city.

      NU campus is not next to Chicago so your proposal makes no real world sense.

      1. conflict of interest? No
        “NU campus is not next to Chicago so your proposal makes no real world sense.”

        So what? Alaska is not next to the 48 states. Should it be part of Canada? See also: Kaliningrad, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Gibraltar, or the little piece of Chicago that is O’Hare airport.

        As for conflict of interest: while I do teach seminars on NPV at Kellogg, I do this on a volunteer basis because of my love for NPV. I am independently wealthy due to the millions that I have made by consulting on the subject of NPV and the financial success of my NPV-based hedge fund.
        (Last year I made several million just when I predicted the collapse of the Icelandic kronur – I am not influenced by NU’s money.)

        1. “I predicted the collapse of
          “I predicted the collapse of the Icelandic Kronur”
          Congratulations. Certainly warrants millions. (what with the cascade of real wealth/value, jobs, quality of life, etc, created by such prescience..)
          Asshat.

          To the topic- all students, of all municipalities, anyplace, should pay a fee for police/fire.

          If a university won’t pay it, charge the student directly. Frankly I don’t know how they’ve gotten away with it for so long.

          (Exception: off-campus students; these charges are a “hidden component” of their rent.)

          Get ready for a mass rethink, along these lines, as budget-strapped college towns across the country struggle to provide a safe environment for their students to live/thrive within.

        2. As the saying goes….
          He who brags about how much money he has, generally hasn’t as much as he brags about. What a bore.

  3. Does It Really Matter When You Consider…
    $787 B “stimulus” package
    $3.5 T 2010 budget
    $775-800 B Health Care reform
    $12.2 T committed for bailouts

    So… does it really matter how much we lean on local Democrats to tax either residents or NU students?

    I think not, because cooked into this spending recipe of “change” is the real question… how and who will pay for all this?

    From the macro view – all of us (and not just the “demonized” successful). The slogan Tax and Spend has changed to SPEND and then TAX.

    And it involves the country, not just Evanston.

    I guess Rahm was right – “never let a crisis go to waste.”

  4. NU part of Chicago? Now you’re dreamin
    Ha, Mr. Who Knows, do you really think for a New York minute that if Northwestern were part of the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Public Library taxing districts that da Mayor or one of his cronies wouldn’t find some way to milk NU? Daley would probably find a way to declare some NU land public property and use his political influences to to sell off parcels of the campus and NU Buildings to the highest bidder in order to feed his political machine. Or, he’d place parking meters all over campus, charging students and faculty 20 quarters to park.

    The rest is silly fantasy. The bottom line is many tax exempt institutions such as hospitals give back to the community in charity work and free services. Yes, there are NU programs that benefit Evanston residents but they’re part of the education program in which participating students are paying NU to participate in.

    Like it or not, NU is part of Evanston – land, people and services received from city police, fire, and other departments. I don’t like to be taxed just like the next guy but I certainly don’t like it when wealthy universities get a free ride and have enough money to buy justice, or brazenly disobey settled lawsuits, or buy up land and buildings and take them off the tax rolls, further burdening Evanstonians. Everyone is being taxed in so many ways so why not tax college endowments or students?

    Maybe NU could build a 24-hour IHOP on campus and give discounts only to non-Evanston residents – tax free.

  5. Amazing…
    I understand that the tax burden in this area is pretty rough, but if you really want to do something about that, how about a re-think of who you keep electing year after year? How about instead of blaming the students, you should blame yourself for electing people who tax, tax, tax? Do you remember how tight money was when you were in school??? I still can’t figure out why this town doesn’t want to embrace the university. Having the students here is great for this community. If you think retail or grocery sales are slow now, think if you removed the school from this area. I did not go to NU, but I do have friends that did. The town in which my school was located embraced everything about the university. Well maybe not everything, but if there was a problem it seemed to me that they worked it out pretty quickly. I really do like this community but the closed minded attitude I see around this town sometimes really amazes me. It is really unfortunate that this town is terrified of moving forward. Try to tax the already financially burden that come to NU, that support this town every year, and see how far that gets you. Of course, most won’t notice. It’s hard to see us down here from your golden pedestal.

    1. Just my crackpot theory, but
      Just my crackpot theory, but the acuteness of town-gown in Evanston might be traceable to the 1800s and the unusual way things evolved. (The university existing first and occupying much of what is now Evanston, and the city growing around it..) A “feudal landlord” mentality may have been instilled at NU from the start, hence the cushy (and now archaically one-sided) arrangement with the city.

      Present day, it must be frustrating to the city to see other universities (typically) giving hundreds of thousands – sometimes millions – annually to their host towns/cities in payment in lieu of tax, huge ‘utility use’ gift payments, etc. Meanwhile Evanston receives mostly lectures about long-ago charters, “prestige” afforded the city, etc.

      Too bad you can’t pay bills with lectures.

      1. people who buy houses at O’Hare and complain about the noise
        “. Meanwhile Evanston receives mostly lectures about long-ago charters, “prestige” afforded the city, etc.
        Too bad you can’t pay bills with lectures.”

        Were you aware of this relationship when you chose to move to Evanston? Or if you are one of those blueblooded lifelong residents, what has prevented you from escaping the feudal tyranny of Northwestern and moving to fabulous Skokie, Wilmette, or Glencoe?

        1. Whatever…to Who Knows
          Mr. Who Knows, I love your sarcasm.

          For a wealthy man like you, is there anyplace, in the U.S. that is a preferable community to you?

          Your juvenille use of the terms blueblooded, fabulous, NIMBY, etc. is really amazing. Let me ask you this, do you lecture at Kellog on NPV with this much general disdain and negativity?

          Hey – if you do not like it here, or in Wilmette, or the North Shore, Skolie, then just leave.

          I would think that a man (and I use that term loosly) of your wealth and accomplishment, and prestige at Kellogg (still unclear) would take a more professional view of your surroundings, and if anything embrace your success positively instead of garnering negativity and disdain for your community and area.

          I am not sure what the disconnect is with you. I have sharply different views of probably everyone here in Evanston regarding politics, but I still love this town and am privileged and happy to live here.

          Your negativity is not appreciated.

          1. whatever to you too, Dan
            What’s this about negativity, again? As I asked before, who is being negative here? Not Who!

            When I took up the study of Net Present Value as a young student at Oxford, I did it because of my love for the subject and my desire to make the world a better place, not for the financial rewards. Still, by applying my knowledge of NPV to the financial markets , I have been able to accumulate a rather substantial amount of wealth – and I have been very generous with it. . Is that any reason for you to be so angry? One would think that a conservative like you would admire those who accumulate obscene amounts of money.

            I am not the one who complains about conditions in Evanston. I like the urban environment, the lake, and being able to walk to stores and restaurants from my condo. I like development, and you won’t see me complaining about the Tower or condos or trying to save a decrepit old schoolhouse. When I go to downtown Chicago, I enjoy taking the Metra or CTA; I just tell my driver to keep the Whomobile in the garage and let him have the day off.

            Unlike the NIMBYs, who are afraid of outsiders moving into their town, I welcome all law abiding people to my neighborhood. Unlike the NIMBYs, who look towards the past and admire Chuckie Dawes and Frances Willard, I think about progress and the future. Chuckie and Frances are dead, times have changed, and Evanston must move forward too.

            So Northwestern is here to stay, if you don’t like it you shouldn’t have moved here. If you don’t like the lake, or the CTA tracks, or the cold winters – then this is not the place for you.

          2. Mr Who knows nothing – give some of your wealth to the city
            Mr Who knows nothing – you are a joke – since you have such great wealth – why dont’ you give it to the city?

            Or for that matter give it to your developer friends – and help them build the tower or the I-hop you want so bad?

          3. give it to the city?
            “Mr Who knows nothing – you are a joke – since you have such great wealth – why dont’ you give it to the city? “

            For the same reasons that I don’t give to the panhandlers on Sherman Ave:

            1. They would probably just waste it ( on drugs or liquor or cigarettes).

            2. Giving money to them wouldn’t solve the underlying problem that makes them panhandle (whether it is substance abuse or inability to work).

            3. My money would be put to better use elsewhere.

            So it is with the City of Evanston. Even though I could spare a few million to get the City through a rough year, it wouldn’t be right. Why should I subsidize the north branch library or elm trees, just because I am rich?

            The only good that might come out of this current Republican created Depression is that it will change the behavior of Americans. Perhaps now the era of McMansions and excess spending will come to an end, and people will focus on savings. I hope that people will stop thinking only about the short term (are you listening, Vito?) and focus on the long term and NPV.

            So it is with the City of Evanston. I hope that the aldermen and residents will get their priorities straight and clean up their act. Instead of endless stupid arguments about charm and uniqueness and zoning regulations or whether to name a building after Mayor Morton, we need to focus on public safety and budgets.

            If I were to just give the City my money, they would never clean up their act and reform.

          4. Outspoken
            Well, I never criticized you for your wealth. If you want to put words in my mouth, so be it.

            And yes, I applaud success, wealth and accomplishment. That is what makes our country so great- the ability to succeed, pursue success and attain success if so inclined.

            I just mentioned your tone, your view, your negativity. You and I are on the same page about a lot of things – I too am for development, the Tower, new diverse people’s in Evanston.

            I guess I just think maybe there is a better way for you to grant us your views without using labels such as “NIMBY” and calling out communities, etc.

            That is all.

      2. NU’s tax exempt status
        NU’s “archaically one-sided arrangement” with Evanston has nothing to do with the presence of NU prior to the establishment of Evanston as a city, but everything to do with NU’s status as a non-profit educational institution. If the people who put so much time and energy into getting a “fair share” from NU pursued other non-profits like the hospitals (now there’s some real money) or churches (what good do they really do for the non-member community?) with the same vigor and arguments, it would be more of a principled argument and less like a desperate money grab. The fundamental problem in this community is everyone wants a free lunch–no elected official is serious about determining what programs are effective, keeping those, and reducing ineffective programs.

  6. Town/Gown Payments ? $$$

    Business Week July5-11, 2010 has an article ‘Princeton and Princeton Face Off Over Taxes’ http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_28/b4186028429115.htm

    Without taking sides, it was amusing that Princeton [town] makes many of the same arguments and comparison with other schools [Harvard and Yale in this case] against Princeton U., that Evanston does against NU.

    One interesting item not mentioned is that endowment figures for Princeton and NU [using numbers several years old] is that Princeton’s endowment was over $2 million per student vrs. NU of $300,000.  Princeton is the highest per student of any university it appears—even than Harvard and Yale which have larger total endowments but not per student.   [Schools differ in funding of education so they claim such comparisons are not useful].

    As far as I know Princeton does not have the wide economic/social diversity and crime that Evanston has from being so close to Chicago [and trying to be everything to every group].   On the other extreme, New Haven makes Evanston look like Winettka !

     

     

     

    1. “Ivy League School to Pay City Millions”

      “Ivy League School to Pay City Millions”
      The Wall Street Journal reports May 2, that Brown U. has much the same tax exemption as NU but has agreed to pay its home town $31.5 million over 11 years—over other payments it already makes.
      I don’t know amounts or agreements NU has made with Evanston.  Of course people may consider that NU seems to manage their money better than Evanston [who knows what the Council would do with $31.5 million].

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304050304577377882290627666.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

      If you can’t view the above site, this is a briefer report.
      http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/brown-pay-ri-city-315m-budget-16255154

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