Efforts to impose a first-in-the-nation tuition tax on college students appeared doubtful Tuesday after Mayor Joan Barr vowed to veto a modest but symbolically significant levy approved by the City Council.
Brushing aside complaints that such a tax would punish students who are poor and would probably be struck down by the courts anyway, the council voted 10 to 8 late Monday to enact the approximately $15-a-quarter fee.
It would have applied to several thousand students who attend prestigious Northwestern University as well as three smaller colleges in this well-heeled suburb of 73,000 residents just north of Chicago.
Critics, including many educators, feared that approval of a tuition tax in Evanston might open the floodgates to a wave of copycat taxes in cash-strapped college towns across the country. Northwestern had threatened to sue to block the tax if it were approved.
Backers of the Evanston tax said they lacked the votes in the council to override Barr's veto, but they vowed to organize a petition drive to put a referendum on the tax question on the ballot during municipal elections next April.