Tulane worker, others have message for Congress: don't tax tuition waivers

Tulane worker, others have message for Congress: don't tax tuition waivers

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A husband and father employed by Tulane University knows well the benefits of tuition waivers and hopes the Congress will not make them taxable.

Pressure is on the U.S. Senate from the higher education community to make sure the House version of GOP tax reform does not become law.

Anthony Ovide is an assistant supervisor in the air conditioning and refrigeration shop at Tulane.  He is thrilled his job provides tuition waivers for him and his family.

"Entirely covered and it's a great thing to have to not to have your family to get into debt to have an education," Ovide said.

His wife and one son have already earned Tulane degrees. He said he has another son attending the school.

"As a parent that's what my thing was to work at a place where I could send them to school free," Ovide stated.

But the U.S. House passed tax reform bill would make tuition waivers taxable. Not only do many university workers benefit from tuition waivers, but so do graduate students.

"The country has to have graduate students in order to prosper in research and education, repealing the tuition benefit for graduate students would keep many graduate students from actually attending graduate school, right now many of them make very little money," said Sharon Courtney, V.P. of Government and Community Relations at Tulane.

The House tax bill also strips away the tax deduction for interest paid on student college loans.

LSU President F. King Alexander penned an open letter in the Business Report criticizing the House tax bill. He wrote that if it is not modified and becomes law public, universities like LSU will be faced with even bigger challenges at a time of increasing state funding instability.

The senate version is softer in terms of hits to higher education.

"Whereas the House is looking at things like that, the Senate is not…We have to keep higher education affordable," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana in a recent interview with FOX 8 News.

Cassidy is also a physician.

"We've worked with very specifically with Sen. Cassidy since he sits on the Finance Committee, he's been very willing to listen to us and some of the more problematic provisions for us were not in the senate bill.  We remain concerned as they go to conference," Courtney stated.

The GOP's plan also doubles the standard tax deduction for tax filers.

But university officials FOX 8 has spoken to about this topic make the point that the proposed doubling of the standard deduction still will not be enough to make college tuition affordable for most families.

"We generally support tax reform, but there are a lot of provisions in the House bill which are problematic for higher education," Courtney.

Ovide is very clear that he does not want to see tax reform hinder young people from pursuing higher education.

"My father was going to pay for me to go to school and I didn't take advantage of it, not understanding the important of having an education, you know the higher learning," he said.

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