While preferable to its House counterpart—which would severely impact the ability of graduate and undergraduate students to access higher education—the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act remains highly problematic for colleges and universities.
While we are indeed grateful that the Senate chose not to go along with the House’s draconian action on several tax benefits for students—such as elimination of the student-loan interest deduction, the $2,000 per-year Lifetime Learning tax credit, and tax-free tuition waivers and stipends for graduate student teaching and research assistants—there remain several provisions of great concern. Like the House bill, the Senate bill eliminates the deductibility of state and local income and sales taxes, which will likely impact state revenues for public colleges and universities and state student assistance programs. The Senate bill also doubles the standard deduction for individuals and families, which will likely lead to a severe drop in charitable giving. And the Senate retains a modified version of an excise tax on college and university endowments, which will limit the amount of need-based aid awarded at some two-dozen institutions while setting a dangerous precedent.
We will continue to review all of these provisions with our colleagues in the higher education community as the legislation moves to conference committee, with hope of leveraging support for those provisions most favorable to colleges and universities.