Proposed Tax Reform and Sarah Lawrence: A Message from President Judd

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Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents, and Alumni,

As you may be aware, Congress is presently formulating federal tax reform plans. The proposed legislation, as currently envisioned, calls for changes to the tax code that would create substantial challenges for colleges and universities and the students we serve. This letter summarizes some of the implications of the proposed plans and invites you to join the national debate about tax reform as it relates to Sarah Lawrence College.

Students and families should be aware that some proposals, particularly those in the House version of tax reform, call for the elimination of the student loan interest deduction and various tuition tax credits that presently help to defray the costs of college. More broadly, changes to standard and itemized tax deductions are projected to seriously reduce charitable giving to nonprofits. Like other colleges and universities, Sarah Lawrence College relies on charitable giving from alumni, friends, and parents to sustain and augment financial aid for students, to support classroom instruction, and to make investments that improve the overall educational experience.

Faculty and staff would be directly affected by a provision in the House of Representatives’ plan: an end to the tax-free status of tuition benefits for college employees and their dependents (including those involved in tuition exchange programs).

Other provisions of the tax plan that would be harmful to the long-term well-being of Sarah Lawrence include an end to tax-exempt bond financing, which would greatly increase the costs associated with future financing of improvements to the campus. The proposed elimination of the tax break that employers receive for covering tuition costs of employees seeking advancement through undergraduate and graduate study may result in a reduction in employer tuition benefits that presently support some of SLC’s graduate students.

In this inaugural year, I have invited the SLC community to engage in wide-ranging conversations about the interrelationship between democracy and education. As our elected representatives weigh the implications of these tax proposals, we have, as a community and as individuals, an opportunity to participate in the democratic process around these vital questions for higher education. I encourage you to become fully informed about the proposed tax plans and their implications for students, families, and higher education generally. One helpful resource for further information is The American Council on Education’s website.

Sarah Lawrence College, along with its peer institutions, will be reaching out to elected officials to express our collective concern about proposals that would do harm to higher education. Whatever your perspective on the tax reform proposals, I hope that you will take this opportunity to contact Congressional members in your home district to share your position. A web portal for looking up and contacting your Representative and Senators is available at usa.gov/elected-officials.

Yours,

Cristle

Cristle Collins Judd
president@sarahlawrence.edu