On Nov. 2, the U.S. House of Representatives released a long-awaited tax reform proposal. As expected, it included plenty of changes, and many of the additions were met with mixed reviews, but one sector undoubtedly came out a loser: college education.
The proposed bill would eliminate a variety of tax breaks designed to make college more affordable. It aims to repeal the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a large tax credit to students regardless of degree program, years spent in school or full-time status. Additionally, the bill would remove the Student Loan Interest Deduction, and it failed to reintroduce the tuition deduction that expired earlier this year.
Further, the bill calls for the repeal of the tuition assistance deduction. Removing this would mean graduate school tuition waivers become taxable income.
This would have huge implications for those seeking graduate-level degrees. In interviews with graduate students across the country, Fortune reported that many students’ federal income taxes could increase immensely, some by almost 300 percent.
The proposed rescindment of these provisions comes from a fundamental lack of responsible objectives for tax reform. Ideally, taxes serve three main purposes: fund the government, incentivize good behavior and grow the economy. The latter two are completely at odds with this bill.
Subsidizing college education is widely considered to be a beneficial behavior for the public because it helps America compete and grow economically. Our economy is dependent on a skilled workforce and cutting-edge innovation — both of which are not only aided by, but dependent upon, higher education. Without promoting this growth, our tax code would blatantly neglect its primary goals.
The U.S. Senate released their own tax proposal a week later, and fortunately, it didn’t remove the education tax breaks like its counterpart in the House. But this bill has far from reached its final form, and the elimination of some or all of these tax breaks could very well return to the conversation.
So we must remain active and informed about tax reform. Write your representatives in Congress and share your opinions with them. Don’t forget that our democratic process does not end with elections but instead continues as we provide feedback, positive or negative, to our elected officials. There may be an arduous process ahead, but we have both the duty and the privilege to be a part of it. Make the most of that opportunity.
Evan Newell is a junior in chemical engineering and can be reached at email@example.com.
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