Graduate students have just dodged a bullet. Up until this past month, higher education faced a major tax hike. There were several measures proposed, but the one that stood out most involved students attending graduate school on tuition waivers. Those students were at risk of being taxed on the free portion of their tuition, ultimately hindering their ability to attend school altogether. The reaction was uproar and the result, a reversal of the measure.
Universities had their own hurdles as well. One involved new tax stipulations on endowments – that too, has been taken off the table, for now. As these, and other pieces of the initial higher education tax proposal fall apart, it would seem the battle between Congress and higher education would come to a stalemate, but that doesn’t seem likely.
Many speculate that this is just the beginning of what is to be the “war on college”. Many politicians favor raising taxes on universities and cutting spending on higher education altogether. In fact, the Higher Education Act – a federal law implemented in 1965 which governs financial aid programs – is slated for a possible rewrite which would result in a complete federal overhaul.
What to expect now
The latest Higher Education Act revisions (PROSPER Act) have advanced to the House for voting. The main goal of the act is to make postsecondary education more affordable to all. It includes simplifying the higher education system and cutting many loan programs – all but one to be exact. And allowing just two student loan repayment plans – a ten year and an income-driven plan.
If it passes, long-standing programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program would be cut. One addition to the PROSPER Act includes allowing students to use federal aid for less expensive education that is easier and faster to get – such as job training programs, apprenticeships, and short-term certifications.
Some feel these measures are rushed and that universities and students need more time to prepare for these potential major changes. Others say they act is outdated and is in desperate need of an overhaul. Whatever the case, the bill is moving swiftly through the House and how it will all end up remains to be seen.