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NACUBO Members Convey Legislative Priorities on Capitol Hill

September 21, 2015

Five members of NACUBO's board of directors, 24 Constituent Council members, NACUBO President and CEO John Walda, and other NACUBO staff spent time on Capitol Hill September 15 to illustrate efforts by colleges and universities to find cost efficiencies and stretch resources. They also discussed the "skin in the game" higher education invests in students and their success.

Visiting more than 40 congressional offices from 20 different states, these business officers conveyed support for the Pell Grant program, discussed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), and expressed support for a number of federal tax policies.

Their visit was timely as this fall congressional leaders, together with the White House, must find a way to keep the federal government operating after September 30, identify funding for the federal highway bill beyond October 28, and avoid default since the Treasury estimates it will reach the current debt ceiling by early November.  Also in the coming weeks, NACUBO expects to see the release of draft legislation reauthorizing HEA, which is set to expire on September 30.

While action on comprehensive tax reform is unlikely in the near future, Congress is expected to move in the coming months on a slate of more than 50 expired tax provisions—a number of which impact students and institutions. 

"College and university business officers are wonderful advocates who can respond to concerns about college costs and educate lawmakers with clear information about how their college or university serves students and meets research and public service objectives," said Liz Clark, director of federal affairs at NACUBO.

Walda, who led a delegation of NACUBO members around Capitol Hill on Advocacy Day, also had the opportunity to personally thank Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) for his role in addressing NACUBO's concerns with the IRS penalty notices related to Form 1098-T.

"It was exciting to see the problem so swiftly addressed in the recently enacted Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015. Senator Coats deserves a lot of credit for shining a light on the problem," Walda said.

NACUBO members focused on the issues, including:

FY16 Appropriations

NACUBO recommends Congress maintain the scheduled maximum Pell Grant award of $5,915. Pell Grants are critical to low- and middle-income families trying to afford college. NACUBO is pleased that both the House and Senate marked-up bills enable the maximum Pell award to increase to $5,915.

Higher Education Act Reauthorization

Deregulation. NACUBO is eager to see legislation that eases the burden of confusing and unnecessary regulations and enables institutions to focus on education, student safety, and stewardship of federal funds.

Accountability. Institutions continually invest in and seek to improve student success, putting "skin in the game."  NACUBO is wary of so-called "risk sharing" proposals that could potentially limit access, increase costs, or reduce services and educational offerings.

Tax Policy

Higher education tax benefits. The tax code creates a framework that functions as a "three-legged stool" intended to 1) encourage saving for higher education; 2) help students and families pay for college; and 3) assist with the repayment of student loans. We support this framework as well as efforts to eliminate confusion.

Charitable support. Tax-exempt and nonprofit status is an investment by federal, state, and local governments in higher education, enabling colleges and universities to carry out their missions.

This status enables public and private nonprofit institutions to rely on charitable giving, endowments, and tax-exempt bond financing to help lower the pressure to increase tuition and meet budget demands.

Charitable deduction. It is unlikely that the government could find a better way to leverage private investment. As federal and state governments continue to cut funding for higher education, raising private support has become even more crucial for colleges and universities. 

College and university endowments. These funds are an important source of revenue that supports education, research, and public service missions. Endowed funds represent the institution's promise to donors to use income and investment gains generated by their gifts to support an aspect of the university's mission, usually in perpetuity.

Tax-exempt bond financing. Institutions use municipal bonds and qualified 501(c)(3) private activity bonds to acquire, construct, renovate, and expand capital infrastructure such as hospitals, academic buildings, residence halls, athletic facilities, energy plants, and more. Proposals that would increase borrowing costs can result in diminished investments in infrastructure, higher costs, fewer jobs, reduced services, and increased charges and fees.

Tax Extenders

Reinstate the IRA charitable rollover. The IRA Charitable Rollover permits individuals age 70½ and older to donate up to $100,000 from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to a qualified charity, including colleges and universities, without having to count the distributions as taxable income. Many donations made through this provision to colleges and universities have gone to support student financial aid.

Support extension of Section 179D. This tax incentive encourages energy conservation by tying the value of a deduction to energy-efficient design and construction. Although public institutions qualify, current law does not enable nonprofit hospitals, colleges, universities, and other community organizations to participate. The Tax Relief Extension Act of 2015 would extend this to nonprofits.

Contact

Liz Clark
Director, Federal Affairs
202.861.2553
E-mail