Potential Congressional action on taxation and Higher Education

Dear Pomona College Community,

Congress is considering two major bills: the Senate is near to passing its version of the House’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act while the House is also seeking to overhaul the Higher Education Act of 1965. The impact on students and institutions like Pomona, should either or both pass into law, are severe and adverse.

Key elements of the tax packages target:

  • private college endowments valued at $250,000 per student and above—such as Pomona’s—with an excise tax of 1.4 percent,
  • changes to the deductibility of charitable contributions, which provide an important source for the funding of grant financial aid, of faculty positions and research, of buildings and so much more.

Not only, however, would the ability of colleges as institutions to support our students, faculty, and staff be at risk. Students and their families may also be directly affected through:

  • elimination of the deduction for student loan interest,
  • taxation of tuition waivers such as our Pomona College Tuition Remission program, which is available to faculty and staff, as well as those tuition waivers that support graduate education for students across the country.

There are many other components of the tax plan and Education Act that single out the people who work in higher education and who attend our institutions.

These proposals reflect the mood of the country in many ways. We have seen severe cuts to public institutions and we have seen numerous polls suggesting institutions of higher learning “cannot be trusted.” As a lifelong scholar, teacher, and now leader of this College, I find this seeming devaluation of higher education deeply, deeply troubling. It appears to be a rejection of the role American colleges and universities have played in fostering creativity and innovation; preparing successive generations for fulfilling, useful, and even transformative lives; and in laying the building blocks for a more educated and more equitable society.

We at Pomona have consistently held dear the idea that education should be available to all. It is no hyperbole to say the future depends on our being able to deliver on this promise, collectively, as institutions of higher education.

We have reached out to the California congressional delegation to share our concerns and we are working closely with our many state and national association contacts during this time. I will keep you updated as this legislation continues to take shape.


Gabrielle Starr

Additional information on the tax plan and Education Act can be found at:

The Chronicle of Higher Education has extensive reporting on the Higher Education Act. This link includes a copy of the bill itself.  There is more in-depth information and analysis available on the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) and the American Council on Education (ACE) websites.