COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Missouri System’s tuition waivers for employees would be jeopardized under some versions of the tax overhaul plan being debated in Congress.
The system provided $5.5 million in tuition discounts to employees and their dependents during the last academic year. The tax-free benefit is common across higher education, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported .
But those benefits would be taxed the same as other income under versions of the tax plan, potentially costing some individuals several hundred dollars in additional taxes.
The tax exemption is eliminated in the U.S. House plan approved last week that had the support of Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Harrisonville. The exemption is retained in the Senate version scheduled for debate after Thanksgiving, but its future is unclear as the two bills are merged into a final product.
The exemption is in the same section of tax law allowing higher education to grant tuition waivers to graduate assistants. The House plan would also eliminate the benefit for graduate assistants while the Senate proposal retains it.
“I think policy-makers, particularly with these provisions, should hit the pause button,” said Craig Lindwarm, director of Congressional and Governmental Affairs for the Association of Public Land Grant Universities. “They should look at the kind of workforce we want to create in this country, the kind of economic growth that comes from having an educated citizenry and how we should incentivize that.”
System President Mun Choi said the university is working to lobby against the discount repeal and others that would make it more difficult to pay for college or repay student debt.
System employees receive a 75 percent discount on tuition and required fees for up to six hours of coursework per semester. Spouses and dependents of the employees receive a 50 percent discount on tuition for up to 140 credit hours of coursework.
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com