Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Urging action to oppose GOP tax plans

By Carol Christ

This post was co-authored with Fiona Doyle, UC Berkeley's vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division.

Right now, Congress is considering tax reform proposals that would harm the financial security of students and their families, and threaten the research, education, health care and public service missions of universities. Numerous provisions would make higher education more expensive and less accessible, with considerable negative financial impact on the University of California and our students, faculty, staff and retirees.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) proposes changes to the U.S. Tax Code that would have devastating impacts on students. These changes include:

  • Taxing individual students for tuition paid on their behalf by universities as a benefit of employment (e.g., for GSI and GSR appointments),
  • repealing the interest deduction for student loans borrowed for undergraduate or graduate studies, and
  • repealing other tax credits that reduce the costs of post-secondary studies to individuals and families.
  • The House Education and Workforce Committee recently released the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, which would limit the amount that graduate students could borrow and end the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, among other provisions.

    In all, the proposed changes would dramatically increase the cost of higher education, increase student debt, and discourage aspiring students who struggle to finance their continuing education. UC has prepared a helpful analysis here, and one of Berkeley’s own graduate students has prepared an excellent analysis of the likely impact of H.R. 1.

    Although the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does not include some of the most harmful proposals included in the House of Representative’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), the University of California is on record as opposing both proposals in their current forms, as is the American Association of Universities and other leading groups. The American Council of Education has prepared an excellent summary and FAQ on the two bills.

    The two versions are now in the “reconciliation process” of a joint congressional conference committee, which aims to complete its deliberations in the next week or two. The time to act is now. It is vital that concerned constituents voice their opposition to their congressional representatives without delay.

    Senate members of the conference committee will be announced soon. House members of the conference committee are: conference chair: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX); Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA); Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL); Rep. Diane Black (R-TN); Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD); Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT); Rep. Don Young (R-AK); Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR); and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).

    Those who oppose this legislation and reside in the districts of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) are especially encouraged to relay to them your own stories of accessing education or supporting students.

    Those of you who come from states outside of California are encouraged to contact congressional representatives from your home states.  For contact information, please see How to Contact Your Elected Officials.

    Thank you for your engagement. I cannot overemphasize the importance of making our voices heard now.