Opportunity to Advocate for Higher Education in Regard to Tax Legislation

November 21, 2017

Members of the Rutgers Community:

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. This bill contains a number of provisions that, I believe, cut against our mission as a public university by making higher education harder to attain. I am writing to offer you the opportunity, if you desire, to advocate against these provisions by writing to your elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

The bill passed by the House of Representatives would increase the tax burden for students receiving employer-provided educational assistance by eliminating sections of the tax code that exempted from taxation tuition benefits provided by schools and tuition benefits paid for by employers. This would harm students at all levels of post-secondary education and impose an especially heavy burden on our graduate students, many of whom receive tuition remission while serving as teaching and research assistants. 

The bill would also eliminate the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Student Loan Interest Deduction.  The Lifetime Learning Credit provides a tax credit to part-time students, non-traditional students, graduate students, and lifelong learners. The Student Loan Interest Deduction provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 to student loan borrowers with modest incomes. To give you a sense of how many people rely on these deductions, 12 million filers with adjusted gross incomes of less than $80,000 took advantage of the student loan interest deduction last year.   

Taken together, the education tax benefits eliminated by the House bill would increase the cost of college across the country by $65 billion over ten years. 

Many in our community have expressed serious concerns about the effect this bill would have on Rutgers if it is adopted by the Senate and signed into law. In response, I am offering this opportunity to advocate for changes to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act to ameliorate its impact on colleges and universities across the country, including Rutgers.

If you share this view, I would encourage you follow this link to generate a letter expressing your concerns to your Representative and Senators.

Please understand that this advocacy is not aimed at defeating tax reform legislation. I recognize that members of our community hold a range of opinions about tax reform. The advocacy that I am encouraging does not take a viewpoint on the measure as a whole—only on those provisions that would be detrimental to higher education and to Rutgers.


Robert Barchi