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Opinion: Struggling to Pay For College? How Trump’s New Tax Bill Could Impact You

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As some may already know, President Donald Trump has worked with Congress to pass a new tax bill. While this bill would certainly benefit large corporations — and then, maybe the wealth would “trickle down” — it would mean big changes to our schools and most importantly to us, the students. The bill officially passed 224 to 201 on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Many high school students, at least at my school, generally prefer to stay out of politics. It’s messy, and you may disagree with your friends, so why pick fights in which you don’t want to participate anyway? You’d much rather just stick to sports or fashion or good ol’ gossip. Well, that’s all good and well, but in its current form (both the U.S. House and Senate have to finalize language for a final version and vote on it to send to the president for signing), the new congressional tax bill could hurt you where it counts. It’s certainly not black and white, but it definitely could affect you.

Private & Public Schools. As currently written, the bill would help affluent parents pay for private school education while possibly hurting funds for public schools. The 529 plan, proposed as a way for families — including low-income families — to save for college education, would be expanded to saving for K-12 education at private and religious schools. I’m going to take an educated guess that a vast majority of the people reading this attend public school, the popular choice in America — a choice made, in fact, by 90 percent of the nation. According to CBS News, only 10 percent of U.S. students attend private schools. This small percentage, which includes many wealthy parents who can afford to put away money to save for schooling, would benefit immensely. The vast majority of the nation, however, because of the significant decrease in local and state tax deductions, could experience a lack of funding. According to the National Education Association, a whopping 370,000 education jobs could be jeopardized if the Senate’s tax plan moves forward.

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Graduate Students. If you are a high school or undergraduate student interested in taking graduate courses, listen closely. As of now, many graduate students work as teaching assistants to receive tuition waivers and housing. These waivers are not currently taxed because they are not considered income. The current House bill, however, views them as income and will tax them accordingly. That means if you receive a certain amount of money in exchange for a teaching assistant program, your waivers will be taxed, and your tax liability (the amount you owe) will go up. And if you try to take out more loans to afford these new tax increases, your loan interests could no longer be tax deductible.

Private College Endowments. College tuition is not, by any means, cheap. On the contrary, it’s the highest it’s ever been. However, without colleges’ endowment income, it could be a whole lot higher. The new tax bill would tax 1.4 percent of endowments, creating a possibility for tuition to increase. For example, if you attend a school that is $50,000 per year, it could raise to $75,000 without the benefit of tax-free endowments. According to the Washington Post, one in five students at Harvard have parents with income less than $65,000 per year. These students do not pay the full tuition. If endowments are taxed, this could definitely change — many more low-income families would struggle to pay college tuition.

So why, you might ask, are colleges being specifically targeted? Largely, it is part of the conservative agenda. Stephen Moore, a conservative economist and a Trump campaign adviser, told Bloomberg in an interview that Republicans are aiming for university endowments because “universities have become playpens of the left.” According to the Pew Research Center, “more than half of those with postgraduate experience (54%) have either consistently liberal political values (31%) or mostly liberal values,” so now that there is a majority of Republicans in Congress, they are targeting their opponents.

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So we have to act. Graduate students and students in general are our future. We are our future. The new tax bill would hugely denounce that, dismissing us as liberals. But we are the future doctors, and lawyers, and engineers, and poets, and actors, and activists. We are intelligent, and we deserve higher education without the unfair price amplification created by worried conservatives hoping to dominate the future.

Eliza, 16, is a junior at Marist High School where she works to educate herself about political current affairs.

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