Opinion: Tax Reform That Students, Colleges, and Our Country Can’t Afford

"As lawmakers in Washington work to enact the most extensive tax reform in a generation, they must be wary of unintended consequences for the nation’s colleges and universities. As president of the University of North Carolina system and a former U.S. secretary of education, under President George W. Bush, I am deeply concerned by provisions in both the House and Senate tax-reform bills that threaten our nation’s students and the institutions that serve them," Margaret Spellings writes in an opinion article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

"Effective reform would enhance economic mobility and offer broader access to higher education. Instead, policy makers are considering new taxes on graduate students, new obstacles to private philanthropy, and a larger burden on college graduates already struggling to pay off student-loan debt.

At a time when our economy is demanding more education for more of our citizens, we cannot erect new barriers for the millions of Americans who need affordable higher education. I join my fellow college leaders, as well as alumni and parents across the country, in calling on our representatives to avoid a self-inflicted setback in the national effort to build a more competitive, better educated citizenry.

Some of the most damaging proposals under consideration would make it harder to raise private dollars for crucial priorities like student aid, faculty salaries, and research. The House and Senate proposals both contemplate a major change in the standard deduction that would threaten private giving to all colleges.

Raising the standard deduction without also creating a universal charitable deduction would discourage millions of households from itemizing their charitable giving and would remove a powerful incentive for philanthropy. A study by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates that 80 percent fewer taxpayers would itemize for charitable giving under the new law. A report by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimates a $95-billion drop — 40 percent — in charitable giving nationwide."

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Publication Date: 12/4/2017

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