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Some Republicans rethink tax plan's changes to education

The Republican tax plan includes elements that would push the nation backwards on education. Some GOP lawmakers are starting to rethink those policies.
Desks in a classroom. (Photo by Bob O'Connor/Gallery Stock)
Desks in a classroom.

The Republicans' tax plan is more than just a package of regressive tax cuts. This is a sweeping proposal that would affect many areas of modern American life.

That includes education. Under the GOP's vision, student loans would become more expensive, employer-based tuition assistance would get taxed, college endowment would take a significant hint, teachers would see key tax breaks disappears, and graduate students would find their tuition waivers treated as taxable income.

Politico reported two weeks ago that Republicans are proposed "unprecedented new taxes" on education, leaving "college leaders shocked and scrambling." The piece added that college presidents contend that the GOP package "would be a devastating blow that would make college -- especially graduate school -- more expensive, and further out of reach of low- and middle-income families."

The effects on the American workforce, as well as American society, would likely be significant. It's against this backdrop that the Dallas Morning News reported the other day that some Republican lawmakers are rethinking some of their party's plans.

Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions is pressing GOP leadership to ensure that the party's final tax revamp preserves the tax-exempt status of a critical tuition reduction used by tens of thousands of graduate students across the U.S.That tax-free standing, tied to those students' work as teaching or research assistants, has hung in the balance for weeks after the House-approved version of the tax bill marked it for elimination.Such a change would make the reductions count as taxable income, skyrocketing the burden for many grad students already feeling a financial squeeze.

Last week, more than two dozen House Republicans, each of whom already voted for their party's tax plan, co-wrote a letter to GOP leaders calling the tax on grad students "misguided."

To be sure, it's encouraging to see these conservative lawmakers come around on an important issue, but it's hardly unreasonable to wonder why they didn't raise concerns before voting for the provisions they now oppose? Is it because House Republicans rammed through a radical tax plan before members had a chance to know what's in it?

What's more, while it seems current and future grad students are likely to prevail on this point -- the tax wasn't included in the Senate bill, and appears unlikely to make the final version -- there are still all kinds of elements of the Republican tax plan that would push the nation backwards on education policy. Are GOP lawmakers prepared to reject those "misguided" provisions, too?