NYU President Andrew Hamilton Writes to Members of Congress about Provisions of Tax Bill That Are Harmful to Higher Education

On Tuesday, December 12, NYU President Andrew Hamilton wrote to Congressman Kevin Brady and 34 others to outline concerns about provisions in the tax bill that are harmful to colleges and universities and their faculty and students.

Below please find President Hamilton's letter to Kevin Brady, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Dear Chairman Brady:

On behalf of the New York University (NYU) community, I am writing in opposition to several provisions that are included in H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will be deeply harmful to colleges and universities and their students and employees.

Overall, these provisions will have a significant negative impact on institutional financing and the ability to reduce college costs. Colleges and universities represent key drivers of economic growth through the creation of an educated workforce, a vibrant business sector and the development of new scientific/biomedical technologies. Colleges and universities are unrivalled engines of social mobility in American society, and the degrees we confer are the gateway to a more prosperous, middle-class life. A federal tax bill designed to boost economic growth should not target the very institutions that are vital to promoting it.

Since becoming President of NYU last year, I have made affordability my highest priority and we are making progress. We have been able to keep tuition and room and board increases to the lowest level in two decades; we have given students and families new tools to help lower costs --expanding low­ cost housing options, shortening the time to degree, easing acceptance of credits from other institutions, added savings on textbooks and transportation, among other initiatives -and have prioritized fundraising for our Momentum Campaign, which benefits needy students. So, we at NYU have heard the message loud and clear that universities must do their part to advance access and affordability.

But even as we are undertaking these measures, we are now faced with an array of provisions in the House and Senate-passed bills that will put increasing pressures on college costs and make it more difficult for students and their families to afford a higher education.

Among the provisions of concern to us:

Student Loan Interest Deduction (SLID): The House bill repeals SLID which will eliminate the ability of low and middle-income students and families to claim a deduction for interest on student loans.

Combining the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC): The House bill combines the AOTC and LLC which will eliminate the ability of part-time and nontraditional
students to deduct tuition and educational expenses.

Section 117(d) Tax Free Tuition Treatment: The House bill repeals Section 117(d) which permits some colleges and universities to provide tax-free tuition waivers to their graduate teaching and research assistants and allows institutions to provide undergraduate tuition waivers to employees, spouses and dependents. This will reduce the number of highly-trained scientists and engineers in STEM fields, putting the US at a global competitive disadvantage. In addition, it will significantly harm a key benefit that universities now use to attract young talent and compete with the private sector, which offers higher salaries.

Excise Tax on University Endowments: The House and Senate bill place an excise tax on investment income that targets certain private universities. While NYU would currently not be among those taxed, we believe this provision will work to reduce the levels of scholarship aid that endowments provide to needy students.

Private Activity (Tax-Exempt) Bonds for Universities: The House bill eliminates private activity bond financing for universities, thereby increasing costs for academic and student infrastructure needs.

University Business Income Tax (UBIT): The Senate bill increases UBIT owed by many universities by computing unrelated business taxable income separately for each activity, thereby increasing regulatory burdens and costs that could have been devoted to educational resources.

Excise Tax on Executive Compensation: The House and Senate bills establish a new 20 percent excise tax on executive compensation. While this provision in intended to target salaries of athletic coaches and university presidents, at NYU and many other research universities, our highest paid employees are world class doctors/surgeons affiliated with university hospitals.

In short, I urge Congress to eliminate the provisions in the House and Senate bills that may penalize students and their families and impede the innovative research that helps drive our local, state, and national economy. I firmly believe it is possible to offer tax relief to hard-working middle-class and lower-income Americans in a way that does not increase college costs and does not make a quality higher education less accessible.

As you continue to work through the conference committee process, please feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions related to the impact of these provisions. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Andrew Hamilton