AP NEWS

Retailers Association prez on impact of rising college tuition

September 3, 2017

Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst joined Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” program Friday, where he weighed in on the Herald’s special report on skyrocketing tuition costs at local colleges.

Q: Talk to me a little about your thoughts on the Herald special report on college tuition.

A: We represent the retail industry — stores and restaurants and the like — but in an equally important way we feel like we represent consumers. It’s all about consumers’ discretionary income, what they have at the end of each pay period after they’ve paid their taxes and spent money on the important vital bills that they have to pay every month. What do they have left to reinvest into the economy — including, of course from our standpoint, stores and restaurants. And increasingly what they are spending on both their health care, both their premiums but also on higher taxes and their deductibles and co-pays, but also through higher education. It is just continuing to grow and grow much faster than the rate of inflation and the rest of the economy, much faster than what all of our incomes are increasing at and much faster than all the sales that these small businesses are seeing.

More and more, the discretionary income of our consumers is going to pay for their health care and paying for their education. And the similarities on higher education and health care is striking. ... They all tend to be nonprofit, they don’t pay one dime in taxes and it isn’t just income taxes and it isn’t just property taxes. Incredibly, these big hospitals and these huge higher education facilities that have billions of dollars in reserves don’t even pay the sales tax. All of our working families and small businesses — including low-income consumers — have to pay the sales tax. I just find it incredible that they don’t pay even the sales tax. And there’s something about paying taxes that makes us all sharpen our pencils and look at expenses. What puts education and health care together is that by in large they are nonprofit, they don’t pay taxes and when you don’t pay taxes you don’t really look at your expenses.

Neither one really controls their expenses and if you don’t control your expenses your tuitions keep on going up at unaffordable rates, your health care costs keep going up and therefore our premiums keep on going up at unaffordable rates. I think at the very least, these folks should be paying the sales tax and should be contributing back into the economy through taxes instead of always wanting more and more and more from taxpayers and consumers.