Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos issued a statement responding to the tax reform plan unveiled by the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Nov. 2. The bill includes several provisions which would curtail attempts to make college more affordable, including student loan deductions and the exclusion of tuition waivers and exemptions for graduate students from income taxes.
“We fully support efforts to provide relief to the middle class through simplifying our complicated tax code and stimulating our economy, but we do not think it is in our nation’s best interest to do so on the backs of students,” Zeppos wrote in the statement, which he issued Nov. 9. “The current House bill is misguided and would ultimately slash key educational resources such as financial aid and diminish a key driver of our country’s economic prowess and competitiveness – our colleges and universities.”
Additionally, the bill proposes an excise tax on private university endowments. According to the Chancellor’s statement, this provision would cost Vanderbilt an estimated $7 million a year—around the equivalent of 104 full cost-of-attendance scholarships.
“The proposed excise tax on certain university endowments is a damaging provision that would tax donor funds, make college more expensive, and reduce support for academic programs and research,” Zeppos wrote.
In a piece for the Washington Post, Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, said that the passage of the House bill would “in one fell swoop, set back by decades the effort to make the cost of college more affordable for individuals from all walks of life.”
Today, the Senate released their own competing version of the bill, which preserves student loan interest deduction. This move in favor of higher education affordability signals that the Senate version of the bill may be altered to block other components of the House package that increase the cost of higher education, but this remains to be seen. Zeppos’ statement does not comment on the Senate bill.
“For Vanderbilt, the proposed bill’s significant and profound impacts on our students, families, and workforce would fundamentally threaten our ability to carry out our mission,” the statement reads. “They also would increase the cost of higher education for students and families and threaten Opportunity Vanderbilt, our undergraduate financial aid program that meets 100 percent of a student’s financial need with a package that does not include loans. This is unacceptable.”