McClellan, Sánchez Introduce Bill to Address Student Transportation Costs

May 20, 2024

May 16, 2024

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Jennifer McClellan (VA-04) and Linda Sánchez (CA-38) introduced the Accessible College Campus and Expanded Student Savings (ACCESS) Act to improve post-secondary education affordability and reduce barriers to access.

The ACCESS Act would amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to allow 529 savings plans to be used for transportation and parking expenses related to the cost of attendance at eligible higher education institutions and apprenticeship programs.

“As the cost of post-secondary education continues to rise, we must do more to improve affordability and reduce barriers to access for prospective students,” said Congresswoman McClellan. “Prohibitive costs for transportation and parking pose an undue financial burden on students pursuing their education. My ACCESS Act will empower students to use their 529 Savings Plan to pay for parking and transportation costs and improve accessibility for everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status.”

“For students who commute to campus to pursue an education, the cost of public transportation or on-campus parking can make it unaffordable. This simple change will help ease that burden and improve access to education,” said Congresswoman Sánchez. “I want to thank Congresswoman McClellan for her leadership to help lower the cost of an education for more students.”

The ACCESS Act has been endorsed by Virginia529, the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN), the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), the Virginia College Advising Network (VCAN), the Council for Independent Colleges of Virginia (CICV), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and the College Savings Foundation (CSF).

“The ACCESS Act will provide a valuable opportunity for students to maximize the use of their 529 account to cover one of the most significant non-tuition barriers for commuter and working students: transportation. Recent studies have found that transportation costs can account for almost 20% of a student’s cost of college if the student lives off-campus. This is significant given that more than 60% of full-time students attending a public four-year college and more than 95% of community college students live off-campus. Opening up tax-advantaged 529 accounts to cover these expenses will be a significant boost to many families and savers,” said Mary Morris, Chief Executive Officer of Virginia529 and Chair of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN).

“We are grateful to Representative Jennifer McClellan for introducing the Accessible Campus and Expanded Student Savings (ACCESS) Act. The Urban Institute has estimated that transportation costs are 10% of a community college student’s expense budget, and this legislation will connect students to resources and help them overcome barriers to success and completion. Authorizing transportation expenses such as gas, car repairs, bus fare, and parking fees associated with commuting to class or an apprenticeship will be a valuable benefit for Virginia’s community college students, and will assist more students in achieving a life-changing credential or degree,” said David Doré, Ed.D., Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

“The ability to assist families who participate in 529 plans and have their savings cover more of the educational expenses such as transportation and parking expenses related to the cost of attendance at eligible higher education institutions and apprenticeship programs is remarkable. This bill will alleviate a great deal of anxiety, stress and pressure experienced by many families located in Virginia. We look forward to working with you on the Accessible Campus Commuting and Expanded Student Savings Act and other postsecondary issues,” said the Virginia College Access Network Board of Directors.

“I am grateful to Congresswoman McClellan for recognizing and addressing a significant, often overlooked aspect of higher education expenses—transportation—through her proposed legislation. Allowing students to use a portion of their 529 funds to cover transportation costs will benefit many students,” said Chris Peace, President of the Council of Independent Colleges of Virginia.

“The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) applauds the efforts of Rep. McClellan to expand the allowable usage of Sec. 529 college savings plans. Allowing students to use 529 amounts for annual or monthly parking permit fees will further reduce the additional expenses for those attending college that might either commute or travel from home to college on their own,” said Karin Johns, Director of Tax Policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

“There is clearly a need to enable students to fund transportation costs through 529s. Our newly-released survey of 1,000 high school students across the country found that 68% plan to live at home while attending higher education, not on campus – the highest level we have seen to date; and 78% said it was to save money. By expanding tax-advantaged 529s to include certain transportation expenses, the ACCESS Act will increase opportunities for students to not only attend school but also get to school,” said Chris McGee, Chair of the College Savings Foundation (CSF).

“At Virginia529, our SOAR Scholars meet milestones to earn scholarship money in a 529 account which they can use to help advance their postsecondary education goals. Unfortunately, many of our SOAR Scholars still face difficulty getting to school, making it harder to stay in school even with their scholarship account. The ACCESS Act would help these students by allowing them to use their scholarship dollars to not only pay for their tuition, books, and supplies, but also the costs associated with getting to school, like bus fare, parking, and gas. We are grateful to Congresswoman McClellan for her leadership in helping address this significant non-tuition barrier for our SOAR Scholars,” said Debbie Allan, Virginia529’s Chief Engagement Officer.

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