Dear Members of the Brown Community,
I am writing to share what Brown is doing to understand and address concerns about the tax legislation that is wending its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, which has alarming provisions related to higher education. The Senate Finance Committee´s tax legislation proposal was released just yesterday, and we are beginning to assess its consequences for higher education.
As you may be aware, the draft legislation produced by the House includes a number of provisions that would adversely affect efforts to make higher education accessible and affordable for our undergraduates, graduate students, employees and their dependents. The draft bill as of the evening of November 9 — H.R. 1, "The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" — includes the elimination of the student loan interest deduction; imposition of a 1.4-percent tax on net income from private university and college endowments that exceed $250,000 in assets per full-time student; the repeal of tax-free tuition assistance that employers give to employees; and, possibly, the treatment of tuition waivers for graduate students as taxable income. (The language on the taxation of graduate student tuition waivers is unclear, and we are working to determine the actual intent of the provision.)
These provisions and others are deeply disturbing, as they would have damaging consequences for education and research at colleges and universities across the country. They would lead to financial constraints that would likely force colleges and universities to increase tuition, trim or significantly roll back financial aid, and make deep cuts to support for research.
As we track the evolution of the tax bill, please keep the following points in mind:
First, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what will become the final elements of this legislation. This will play out over weeks, if not months. It is much too early to consider specific implications for Brown regarding the implementation of specific provisions, and I hope that many of them become irrelevant as the legislation is modified to be less damaging to higher education. However, we are positioning Brown to do everything possible to protect members of our community and all that is central to our mission of education and scholarship.
Second, and to this end, Brown´s government relations working group is meeting regularly to understand the legislation as it develops, and to devise strategies to push back against the provisions targeting higher education. Led by the provost, this group was established early last spring and already has been very effective at taking action on such issues as the executive orders on immigration and the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Our finance group will be assessing the financial consequences of the tax bill for Brown, so that the University Resources Committee can be fully informed as it prepares recommendations for the FY19 budget.
Third, we are working closely with peer institutions and organizations that represent higher education to make clear the dire consequences that the proposed legislative provisions would have on institutions of higher education and the students we serve. In the coming weeks, you are likely to see joint public responses to the proposed legislation by groups of universities and colleges, as well as such organizations as the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the American Council of Education (ACE). We already are reaching out to federal policymakers to express our deep concerns and explain why the provisions listed above, and others, would be harmful to students and the mission of higher education.
Brown´s senior leadership will update the community as more information becomes available. We are committed to remaining vigilant and taking action to make the case that limiting access to education and hampering research is not in the best interest of the country.