Faust Lobbies Against GOP Tax Bill in D.C.

To Serve Better Thy Country
University President Drew G. Faust in February 2017.
UPDATED: November 29, 2017 at 1:51 a.m.

University President Drew G. Faust made the rounds in Washington earlier this month to argue against a Republican tax plan that would create significant financial burdens for the University and its affiliates.

Both from her office in Cambridge and in-person during her latest trip to the nation’s capital, Faust has spoken to dozens of lawmakers in recent weeks to make her case, including the Massachusetts congressional delegation, University alumni in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer '71.

Those conversations are part of a broader University effort to combat policy prescriptions administrators have said will harm Harvard and higher education throughout the country.

“A number of provisions in the bill have the potential to seriously damage American higher education as well as individuals who live, work, and learn at colleges and universities across the country,” Faust said in an emailed statement. “I am deeply concerned about the ways in which these measures threaten to undermine innovation and discovery, and deter people from pursuing their educational goals.”

Specifically, administrators decried a proposal in both Senate and House versions to levy a 1.4 percent excise tax on university endowments, which would have cost Harvard $43 million last year. Faust also raised concerns about provisions in the House bill that would tax graduate student tuition waivers as income and eliminate student loan deductions. In an email to Harvard affiliates last week, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’77 explained how the bills might affect them and urged them to contact their representatives.

Garber also wrote that, in addition to Faust, members of Harvard’s governing boards, alumni, and other University affiliates have lobbied lawmakers to reconsider the proposals. The University’s Washington-based federal affairs team has continued its attempts to shift legislation more in Harvard's favor.

Beyond purely higher education-focused issues, in her recent conversations with lawmakers, Faust has also made the case for the University’s position on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—an Obama-era program that protects undocumented youth that Trump announced he would end earlier this year—and funding for scientific research.

The House passed their version of the tax reform bill on Nov. 16 and the Senate Budget Committee passed a different version Tuesday. The full Senate will likely vote on that bill later this week, and if it passes, both chambers will need to reconcile differences between the two plans in order for it to become law.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at jamie.halper@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

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