Dear Members of the MCAD Community,
I am writing to give you an update on the status of the House tax reform bill. The bill has been discussed and amended during mark up in the House Ways and Means Committee. While certain provisions have been changed, the bill is still a serious concern to colleges and universities and the students we serve. It is critically important that you reach out to your elected officials in both the House and Senate to express your concerns with this proposed legislation.
These changes affect students and all employees at MCAD and colleges across the country. Please send the letter or a modified version to your congressional representatives.
Your action is needed now!
Kate here. Most of you probably don’t know this, but in addition to writing grants for MCAD, I also am the college’s Campus Legislative Contact for the Minnesota Private College Council. Most of the time, being MCAD’s CLC involves being on a lot of really boring conference calls while the state legislature is in session and keeping in contact with MPCC’s lobbying staff to track what’s going on in St. Paul. But I was on a call with MPCC yesterday about the tax bill, and instead of being bored, I was alarmed and angry at the changes being proposed.
The language around the current tax bill can be really confusing, so I’m going to break it down into plain English for everyone as best I can: This bill sucks. Here are some of the crappy ways it would impact MCAD, our staff, and our students:
- The majority of MCAD students (about 84% of alumni) take out student loans to pay to go to MCAD. Under current tax law, student loan interest is deductible. The bill being proposed would eliminate this tax write-off. Basically, it’s going to make it harder for our students to finance their education and build their careers after they graduate. This is especially bad for MCAD because over 40% of our current students are PELL-eligible.
- It will make it harder for MCAD to borrow funds for campus building projects. Under current tax law, when MCAD has to borrow money for capital projects (for example, the college had to borrow to build the parking lot in 2010) those borrowed funds are tax-exempt. The bill would remove this benefit.
- MCAD offers a tuition-reimbursement program for full-time and part-time staff. There’s a section of the tax code that incentivizes employers to provide these kinds of benefits. The bill would remove this incentive.
- One of the big benefits of working at MCAD is the tuition exchange scholarship program. Currently, this benefit is not taxed. The proposed bill would tax these benefits.
There’s also some stuff in the bill about how endowments are taxed, but to be honest, faculty and staff don’t need to worry about it. MCAD’s endowment isn’t big enough to be affected by what is being proposed.
OK, so what do we do about it? CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS AT THEIR DC OFFICES. Calling has the most impact (trust me on this; I worked four years in politics, specializing in constituent services). Students--call the representative from your home district; you’re likely to have more impact there. Don’t like talking on the phone? Me either, but here’s a sample script for you to use:
Hi, my name is Kate and I’m a concerned constituent. I’m calling to let Representative/Senator [INSERT NAME HERE] know that I strongly oppose the changes to the tax law being proposed in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. We shouldn’t change the tax code to make it harder for students to pursue and finance their higher educations. I encourage Senator/Representative [INSERT NAME HERE] to vote NO on this bill.
Pro-tip: If you call in the evening you can leave a message without having to be on hold or talk to an actual person. This is what I usually do and I’ll be making that call tonight.
I know that having to care about the tax code is drag, but this is important. Higher education is a public good and if we truly believe that students come first then we need to fight like hell for them. And students, we need you to fight like hell with us and for us.
MCAD might be small, but we can make a difference. Yesterday, over 600 of our students and neighbors voted on campus. Our very own Andrea Jenkins is making headlines across the nation for her historic victory. Every single one of the 134 precincts in Minneapolis is using signage that MCAD designed--for next year’s election it will be every precinct in Minnesota. Artists and designers have the power to change our community and country for the better. Let’s use it. Make that call.
If you text your 5-digit zip code to the phone # 520-200-2223, you will receive a simple text message with the names and phone numbers for the local offices of your U.S. senators, Congressional representatives, and state legislators. You can call all 5 of these numbers to deliver the message Kate suggested in the previous email. Also, that number never tries to reach you again for any reason. But it's a very effective service!
-Sarah Petersen, Adjunct faculty, Media Arts and Design
If you want to send a fax instead of calling your Senators, just text 'RESIST' to 50409 and @botresist will fax your senators for you. I did this for an issue earlier in the Summer. It works.
You can customize it to say "Hi, my name is [Kate] and I’m a concerned constituent. I want to let Representative/Senator [INSERT NAME HERE] know that I strongly oppose the changes to the tax law being proposed in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. We shouldn’t change the tax code to make it harder for students to pursue and finance their higher educations. I encourage Senator/Representative [INSERT NAME HERE] to vote NO on this bill."
You speak it into the phone, if I recall, and it will read it back for you to be sure it has it right. You do it all from your phone.