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University of Toledo president concerned tax bill would hike college costs

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University of Toledo President Sharon Gaber is concerned the Republican tax-reform bill would make college less affordable for students and take away incentives for those who donate to colleges and universities.

In a letter penned Nov. 8 to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and released by Miss Kaptur’s office Tuesday, Ms. Gaber took issue with several clauses in the proposed legislation, including those that would tax students on tuition waivers and on employer-provided education assistance.

Ms. Gaber also said more than 3,000 graduate students across the university would see their out-of-pocket costs increase under the proposed tax overhaul, which “could significantly harm our ability to perform research in areas such as water quality in Lake Erie, advanced technologies such a thin-film photovoltaics, and medical research.”

She also noted that nearly 32 percent of UT’s students are the first in their families to attend college, and many rely on tuition waivers often provided when they work for the university as researchers or teaching assistants.

“We need to find ways to assist our students in degree attainment, not tax them for achieving scholastically to earn tuition reductions,” she wrote.

But not all see the reform package as harmful. U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), who also received a letter from Ms. Gaber, said it includes many provisions that will benefit people in Ohio and will consolidate redundant education credits.

“In fact, the average middle-class family will see savings of nearly $1,200 a year under this plan,” he said in a statement. “The legislation will help students by strengthening 529 plans that many middle-class families use to save for their children’s education, protecting the tax-exempt status of scholarships, and rolling several confusing and duplicative education credits into one, the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Ms. Gaber also sent letters to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio). And she isn’t the only leader in Ohio higher education speaking out about the bill.

Ohio State University President Dr. Michael Drake also wrote a letter to Miss Kaptur this month, citing similar worries that the package would increase the cost of higher education for students.

“I wanted to express concern over provisions that will have negative consequences for students, families and Ohioans who rely on research universities for undergraduate and graduate education and cutting-edge research that saves lives, creates new technologies and advances competitiveness,” he wrote.

Miss Kaptur has criticized the bill as primarily benefiting big corporations and the wealthy and welcomed the bill’s criticism from Ohio’s leaders in public education.

“With major universities in Ohio joining the chorus of many other groups worried about teachers, students, seniors and middle-class families, it is imperative that the Republican-controlled Congress reverse course on this wrongheaded tax proposal,” she said in a statement. “Let’s instead focus on real reform that doesn’t sell out our future.”

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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