Tax Reform Proposals Attack Colleges and Students

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As Congress wrestles with the tax reform, I along with other higher education leaders have been working diligently, contacting elected officials, and urging them to vote against a plan that would damage higher education in this country.

Many aspects of the bill would make higher education more expensive for families, even as colleges and universities are looking for ways to broaden access to education – one of the key ways for individuals to achieve economic independence.

Some provisions included in “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that has passed the House would levy a whole host of new taxes on both institutions and their students and could block higher education for millions of American students. For example, the provisions could drastically reduce the Lifetime Learning Credit, which allows students and their families to claim a credit for college expenses. The Student Loan Interest Deduction – used by many to help pay off their loans – could be eliminated, Employer-provided tuition benefits, which employers use to make sure they have a well-trained workforce, would be treated as taxable income. Following college, many students would see their hopes for graduate school dashed under the proposed House GOP tax plan. Today, students who could not otherwise afford graduate school receive non-taxable tuition waivers for their work as research or teaching assistants. Under the House plan, the tuition would be taxed as though it were income. The list goes on and on and, in each instance, students and families pay higher taxes.

While most of these highly concerning provisions have not been included in the Senate version of the bill, they could be in the final bill submitted to the President for signature. Each is a de facto tax increase on American students and their families, makes the already difficult task of affording college even more so, and closes the door to many for whom a college education is a doorway to a successful future.

Taken together, these provisions are a clear attack on U.S. colleges and universities and their students.

A recent letter to the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee from the American Council on Education states clearly and succinctly: “This legislation, taken in its entirety, would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities.”

America’s colleges and universities stand ready to work with Congress to create real, fair and equitable tax reform for all Americans. Each day, we struggle to balance our budgets, contain tuition costs and provide as much financial aid to deserving students as is possible.

We ask Congress to reconsider these proposals and work with us to make a college education available and within reach of as many Americans as is possible.