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GOP Tax Reform Bill Targets University Endowments

As GOP Senators revealed their tax reform plan in Washington Thursday, members of the House Ways and Means Committee moved forward with amendments to their version of the bill that includes at least one provision that has university presidents up in arms.

The tax reform bill released last week would place a 1.4 percent tax on the endowments of private colleges and universities.

Endowments are investment funds largely made up of donations and other gifts to a college or university.

Thursday, the committee approved an amendment to the bill that expands the tax beyond the universities themselves to "organizations related to the university", or university foundations, that also hold endowment assests.

The new tax would affect 5 Ohio schools: Case Western Reserve, Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan, Kenyon, and Oberlin.

All five have endowments larger than $100,000 per student, a provision required under the bill. It exempts schools with fewer than 500 students. 

Oberlin’s endowment totals more than $850 million, but President Carmen Twillie Ambar said on 90.3's The Sound of Ideas Thursday the school isn’t just sitting on the money.  

“The notion that we should be taxed, I just find it troubling, particularly since part of our work is to try to elevate the middle class, to try to elevate students that come from economic disadvantage,” she said. 

Oberlin is one of the most expensive private colleges in the state, but Ambar said the school has historically worked to provide access and financial aid to low-income students.

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