Providence mayor wants to tax college students

Providence, R.I. Mayor David Cicilline wants to place a $150-per semester tax on students at the city's private colleges, which include Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

"It's really about a shared commitment to the well-being of your community that you're a part of," Cicilline told the Associated Press. "Everyone should be doing their part and coming to the table."

No, actually it's all about imposing a junk fee on the people who are the lifeblood of Providence's economy. It's also unfair that the proposal only targets private colleges. Providence's Rhode Island College has 9,000 students (which is more than Brown), so the idea of a tax on students at private schools but not public ones reeks of protectionism.

It's understandable that Providence needs more cash, but it just seems strange to go after the people who don't have any meaningful income in search of that cash. Wouldn't it be better to require Providence college students to contribute a certain number of hours of community service each year? A proposal like that could probably generate the support of colleges, which might be able to offer some academic credit for it.

College students possess human capital in spades but very little monetary capital, which is why a tax doesn't make sense. It's altogether fitting and proper that Mr. Cicilline should be looking to students to give more back to the community, but more junk taxes isn't the way to do it.
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