As Congress completes its work for the year and we head into the holiday break, I wanted to provide another update on some of the issues we’ve been tracking at the federal level.

The House and Senate have agreed on a tax package that will be voted on this week, and while not guaranteed, it is expected to pass and be signed into law. Several provisions that we and other higher education institutions and associations opposed were ultimately left out of the final bill. These include:

  • Graduate student tuition waivers: The plan leaves in place a provision of the existing tax code that allows colleges and universities to waive or discount tuition for graduate students without having those benefits count as taxable income.
  • Student loan interest deductions: The plan maintains tax benefits for student loan borrowers, allowing them to deduct up to $2,500 paid toward student loan interest from their taxable income each year.
  • Employee-dependent tuition benefits: The final bill leaves untouched tax-exempt benefits for the spouses and dependent children of college employees.

These were points of serious concern for many of us, and this is a great outcome. We worked closely with the Colorado delegation, our federal affairs team, and our national associations to ensure our voices were heard, and I want to offer a special thanks to our representatives in Congress for working with us on these issues. Of course, this isn’t everything in the tax bill that relates to higher education. The following statement from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, along with the summary article below from Inside Higher Education, both provide a bit more detail, and we can expect to read more about the impacts of the tax bill in the months ahead.

In addition to the tax package, there are other federal issues that are of concern to our campus, among them:

  • Appropriations – Congress will have to enact another Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded and open past this Friday (December 22) – it is expected to last until late January. As we continue to work with our delegation, we are advocating for adequate funding for financial aid and research programs on behalf of our students and faculty.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program – No resolution for this issue is expected before Congress breaks for the year, but finding a legislative solution for DACA individuals will be a top priority for Congress in the new year.

Each of these issues are challenging and the outcomes remain uncertain. Our leadership and federal relations team are following these developments closely, and we will provide more information as it becomes available.

Have a great holiday break, and I look forward to seeing you back on campus in the New Year –


Dr. Tony Frank