February 7, 2018
With their attention occupied by tax reform last year, the higher education lobby had a muted response to the GOP's first crack at overhauling the student aid system and how it keeps colleges accountable. That’s begun to change over the last month as major higher ed associations have issued forceful criticisms of the PROSPER Act, as Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have labeled their update to the Higher Education Act, while also alerting member institutions about perceived serious problems with the bill.
February 5, 2018
For many low-income students, a small amount of money—$300 or $600 or $900—can make the difference between dropping out and receiving the diploma. Rather, financial challenges for many students do not stop when they receive scholarships, loans or income from jobs. Financial distress can follow students throughout their college journey. A winter heating bill, a dead battery, the cost of a textbook or a family member in need of medicine can derail students—many of whom are in good academic standing. Given this, how do we rethink financial aid to improve completion, not just access?
January 26, 2018
The U.S. Senate education committee got into the weeds of higher education policy again Thursday, examining how the federal government could open up innovation by colleges and universities. But the biggest buzzword that emerged from a two-hour hearing -- “guardrails” -- signaled the focus of Democrats and expert witnesses on the quality protections that should come with opening up federal aid to nontraditional providers, as congressional Republicans have proposed doing. The tension over that specific issue reflects a larger divide between the parties that applies to many questions involved in an update of the Higher Education Act.
January 22, 2018
Congress failed to reach a last-minute agreement Friday night to avoid a government shutdown. That won't mean immediate consequences for federal student aid recipients or institutional funding. But institutions and students depending on Education Department programs could see an impact if the shutdown drags on. For academics and institutions that receive grants from research agencies, funds already awarded are not affected, but peer review and other activities to select new grants may halt, and new funds will not be going out. The impact on academic science may be minimal if the shutdown lasts just a few days, but it would get significant in a longer shutdown.
December 19, 2017
The Republican-drafted tax reform bill, headed for votes in both chambers of Congress this week, does not contain several earlier proposals that would have adversely affected graduate students. But a tax on some large private college endowments made it into the final version of the legislation (H.R. 1). Additionally, the 505-page bill sharply cuts business taxes while also halving a tax break intended to encourage development of drugs for rare diseases.
December 14, 2017
Senate and House negotiators meeting this week to craft compromise tax-reform legislation plan to exclude from a final bill some controversial proposals affecting students and colleges, according to multiple reports. Lawmakers from the two chambers of Congress agreed to drop provisions that would treat graduate student tuition benefits as taxable income and repeal student loan interest deductions. Both provisions were included in House tax legislation passed last month but left out of a bill that narrowly cleared the Senate Dec. 2.
December 13, 2017
After subtracting student fees and paying for insurance, doctoral student Tom Millay takes home about $15,000 per year from a Baylor University stipend. But soon he could be taxed as though he earns three times more. Millay, who is studying religion and works as graduate assistant at Baylor, is one of thousands of doctoral students in Texas and beyond watching nervously as Congressional Republicans iron out the details of their tax cut bill. In exchange for his teaching duties, Millay receives free tuition — a $30,000 savings — and an annual stipend of $20,000. If lawmakers approve the House version of the bill, tuition waivers like his would be marked as taxable income, causing a major financial hit for him and thousands of graduate students like him.
December 6, 2017
As the competing Republican tax plans from the House of Representatives and the Senate head to a conference committee that will square the differences and create a final piece of legislation, graduate students are worried. A group of 40 or so activists and graduate students, organized in part by Faculty Forward and the Service Employees International Union, took their concerns to Capitol Hill Tuesday in a protest outside the office of Representative Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. Upon coming to the office’s locked door, the protesters held their demonstration in the hallway.
December 6, 2017
Eight graduate students were arrested Tuesday protesting the Republican tax plan outside the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the latest demonstration against legislation that students fear will make their education less affordable. Graduate students say their taxes will skyrocket if a proposal to treat their tuition benefits as income makes it into the final version of the legislation. Universities waive tuition for graduate students willing to work as teaching and research assistants. Those waivers are exempt from taxation, but House Republicans want that to end.
November 30, 2017
Many Ph.D. students studying science, technology, engineering and math receive tuition waivers. That means their tuition is covered, and that money isn't taxed as long as the student does research or teaches for the university.