University of Colorado Boulder officials are relieved that the final version of a Republican tax overhaul evolved to address concerns among graduate students nationwide.
Legislation that passed out of the House in November proposed to tax the waived tuition qualified graduate students received for their contributions to teaching and research.
The proposed bill would have taxed money that never actually hit students' bank accounts, but the final version of the bill will continue to exempt the reduced tuition dollars.
President Donald Trump signed the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul into law on Friday.
The new law ensures big cuts to the wealthy, including corporations, with "more modest reductions to other families," according to The Associated Press.
"Congressional leadership backed away from the proposal after listening to the concerns of students and universities," read a message from CU. "For students, faculty and staff who are receiving tuition waivers, this is a welcome maintenance of the status quo."
CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano said he was "extremely pleased" that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does not tax graduate students for tuition waivers and preserves deductions for student loan interest payments and credits for tuition.
"The American Opportunity Tax Credit, Hope Scholarship Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit help students afford their education," DiStefano said in CU's online post. "I want to especially thank Colorado's congressional delegation, students, faculty and staff for advocating for students and for higher education."
CU credited graduate students across the country for bringing attention to the bill proposal that could have dramatically increased taxes for many students.
While the bill was being debated and revised, CU graduate students and supporters held a rally at the University Memorial Center fountains protesting the increased tax. Students shared how the proposed bill would impact them, with some unsure if they could continue their education if the legislation passed without reform.
"We are also grateful to CU's government relations team for providing us with regular updates and for advocating on behalf of CU at the federal level," said Graduate School Dean Ann Schmiesing.
CU officials still had some concerns about the final legislation.
"Advocacy moved the needle on many items of interest, however, not all of the provisions affecting higher education have changed," the online message read. "While Private Activity Bonds, which the university uses for infrastructure projects, have been maintained, the tax exemption for Advance Refunding Bonds has been eliminated."
CU said the refunding bonds, typically used by university systems and municipalities to refinance major construction projects, recently saved the Boulder campus $13 million in borrowing costs.
"There is concern the doubling of the standard personal income-tax deduction will reduce the incentive to itemize, which may lead to a reduction in charitable giving," CU wrote to the university community. "A provision eliminating the charitable deduction for seat-license fees for sporting events is also likely to impact revenues."
University administration assured the CU community they would continue watching the impacts of the finalized tax legislation and assess the outcomes on higher education.
Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-473-1106, firstname.lastname@example.org