To the editor:
Each year in March, Alexandria’s high school seniors are waiting to hear from colleges and universities – looking for that magical fat envelope that says “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted!” But there are many talented and hard-working Alexandria students who have a greater worry, and are thinking, “If I get accepted, how will I ever be able to afford college?”
With two out of three families at T.C. Williams High School living near or below the federal poverty level and receiving aid for free or reduced-price lunch, the need for college scholarships in this community is extraordinary. Each year, many bright, industrious Alexandria students are accepted to college, but get left behind simply because they cannot afford the cost of tuition.
The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, a local non-profit based at T.C. Williams, works to make college affordable and accessible for all Alexandria students despite their financial need. Our general fund scholarships now provide four-year college scholarships of $3,000 a year to the students most in need to help them get a college degree and a better chance for a lifetime of success. I know this because I’ve been on the board of the Fund since 2013. My wife Libby and I have been contributors for more than 20 years, beginning when we sent the first of our three children to T.C. Williams.
The Scholarship Fund has been approved by Virginia to receive “Select Tax Credit Status” and can offer its supporters a 65 percent tax credit for charitable contributions on their Virginia state income taxes. For example, if a person gives $10,000, they would receive a $6,500 tax credit to help pay their Virginia state tax bill.
If they give appreciated securities or need to take a required minimum distribution from their individual retirement account they would save more, potentially a great deal more, on their taxes. In fact, we have received an increased amount of credits from the state this year. More importantly, investments like these pay dividends for our community.
Remember that tax credits are different than deductions. Tax credits result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in actual Virginia tax bills. In a few cases, tax credits, along with other tax laws, can result in zero-cost charitable giving – the credits may in fact help residents save more in taxes than the amount of the gift. For instance, the tax credits are applicable to donations of stock and appreciable assets and can fully eliminate capital gains taxes.
With tax credits available, this is a terrific time to help students in our community from families that are struggling to make ends meet, students who are the first in their family to apply to college, students whose parents work multiple jobs just to pay the rent and feed the family.
The tax credits available to the Scholarship Fund are limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the spring. A special information session on tax credit benefits and how to access them will be held on Sunday at the home of School Board Chair Cindy Anderson and her husband Mark. Please contact the fund for information at [email protected] or 703-824-6730. Our team will be happy to provide you with details about the information session or the tax credit process.
During the past 34 years, thanks to the generosity of past and current members of the Alexandria community, the fund has helped send more than 4,750 Alexandria students with financial need to college and awarded more than $16 million in scholarships to T.C. Williams students who might not otherwise have a chance at college.
The fund now offers about $1 million in scholarships a year. In recent years the fund also provides comprehensive financial aid advising for students to help them access any and all additional private and institutional aid available to help them pay for college.
More important than the tax savings, however, is that giving money to the Scholarship Fund is the right thing to do. With your help, we can make sure that college acceptance letters are celebrated and not the source of family tension. A college scholarship from SFA can change a student’s life forever and help create financial stability and independence for both the student and their family for generations.
-Bruce Johnson, board member and treasurer, Scholarship Fund of Alexandria