The Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) Executive Board called on the Board of Trustees to speak against the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in a letter sent Wednesday evening.
“Your vocal, public support now is more critical than ever and we urge you to reach out to Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue to voice your own concerns about the bill and the damage it can have on Emory,” the letter reads.
Signed by eight members of the GSGA Executive Board, the letter details concerns with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s effects on higher education, particularly those affecting graduate students and the University endowment.
If passed, the Republican tax plan would significantly decrease the corporate tax rate and generate more tax revenue from University endowment funds. The U.S. House of Representatives bill also eliminates deductions for education expenses and loans. Various members of the Emory community, including President Claire E. Sterk, have publicly criticized the bill.
The House approved its version of the bill Nov. 16 in a vote along party lines. The Senate is expected to vote on its version Thursday night or Friday after the bill passed 12-11 in the Senate Budget Committee Tuesday. If the Senate passes the bill, a conference committee will be established to resolve differences between the two bills.
GSGA Executive Vice President Vineet Tiruvadi (18G, 21M) wrote in a Nov. 30 email to the Wheel that GSGA hopes the Board will take a public stance against the GOP tax plan.
“We hope they issue a public statement in support of graduate student education and higher education,” Tiruvadi wrote. “This can take many forms but what we want is something we can point to as graduate students/professional students are interviewing here at Emory this fall and making decisions about schools in the Spring.”
The GSGA letter points to the proposed House bill, which repeals U.S. Code Section 117, a provision that allows students to deduct qualified tuition reductions from gross income. Section 117 also discounts qualified scholarships from gross income. The Senate version of the bill does not repeal Section 117.
“The lack of meaningful discourse for such a far-reaching reform threatens the very fabric of our nation’s democracy,” the letter reads. “We strongly believe institutions of higher education must speak up loudly, strongly, and in unison against such threats.”
The Wheel reported Nov. 14 that some Emory graduate students may be subject to higher income taxes under the House bill proposal.
The letter states that the proposed tax plan may cause “devastating consequences” for undergraduate students and faculty at Emory as well. The House bill would disallow people from deducting student loan interest from gross income, and both the House and Senate bill propose a 1.4 percent excise tax on some university endowment funds, which would include Emory’s.
“[The endowment tax shaves] away dollars that pay for student financial aid and faculty salaries and benefits while weakening higher education institutions in performing their mission,” the letter reads.
Vice President and Secretary of the University Allison Dykes confirmed in a Nov. 30 email to the Wheel that the Board of Trustees received the GSGA Executive Board’s letter and said that the Board does not have a response to the letter as of 11:12 a.m Thursday.
Tiruvadi wrote GSGA will evaluate next steps if the bill passes based on the final form of the bill.
“There’s too much ambiguity [in the legislation] and we’ve been working with Laney Administrators and [Laney] Graduate Student Council … to brainstorm all the possibilities,” Tiruvadi wrote.
The University Senate and Faculty Council approved letters to send to members of the Georgia congressional delegation that outlines similar concerns about the proposed tax changes. GSGA urged its constituents to read the provisions of the bill and contact Georgia legislators in a Nov. 17 email, which the Student Government Association (SGA) supported in a Nov. 27 email.
Correction (12/1/17 at 4:04 p.m.): The article was corrected to reflect the dates of the emails GSGA and SGA sent.