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Former UM president: Tax reform can’t be pro-growth if college is no longer affordable

Zócalo Public Square
Mary Sue Coleman, former UM president and currently the head of the Association of American Universities, joined Stateside to express concerns over the new tax bill

Congress wants to present a final version of tax reform to President Donald Trump by Christmas.

Many public and private colleges are hoping for some changes before the legislation reaches the president’s desk.

In a statement, Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the Association of American Universities, recently outlined some of the major concerns. Coleman, who is a former president of the University of Michigan, joined Stateside to talk about her concerns.

Listen above for the entire conversation.

On taxes on tuition waivers

“There’s a proposal to tax the tuition waivers that graduate students receive, and the impact of this would be to double or triple the income tax that these young people pay,” Coleman said. She added that graduate students already earn a barely-livable wage. “It would simply make it impossible for many, many students to go to graduate school unless they had an independent source of wealth.”

On taxes on employer educational benefits

Coleman also expressed concern about taxing employer educational benefits, which help company employees further their education by attending graduate school. The benefits are not taxed, and if they were, "again, it’s another impediment for getting a more highly educated workforce, and we think that that’s really negative for the global competitiveness of the country and for growth of the economy.”

On excise taxes on endowments

Coleman is also very worried about a provision of the tax bill that would tax university endowments. While the bill is limited to private universities currently, Coleman believes it would quickly expand to public institutions too. “These endowments provide scholarships for students, they provide funds for faculty research, and if there’s a tax on it, it’s going to the federal government,” she said. “Then fewer funds will be available, and we think that’s a big negative.”

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