Republican tax bill drops controversial loan provisions

(Left photo via Pixabay, right photo by Money/Flickr)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican lawmakers have dropped from the tax bill provisions that were criticized by students and educators as making college less affordable.

House and Senate Republican leaders forged an agreement Wednesday on what would be the most sweeping overhaul of the nation's tax laws in more than 30 years. The package would give generous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and more modest tax cuts to low- and middle-income families.

The updated version leaves in place the deduction for interest on student loans, according to two congressional aides. The bill also would no longer start taxing graduate-school tuition waivers.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would not comment on the bill in the works, other than to say that she supports a separate provision to extend savings accounts that are now restricted to college tuition to K-12 education.

"Happy with the addition of the 529 piece in the bill," DeVos said on the sidelines of a summit devoted to university innovation on Thursday. "But beyond that I know that this is like sausage making, so I am looking forward to the results and to a successful outcome."

Speaking more broadly about higher education legislation, DeVos said, "This is an opportunity for us to look more holistically at higher education and the fact that there are multiple pathways to a successful adult life."

"We should look at education not as increments of time, but as a life-long pursuit."

Terry Hartle with the American Council on Education praised the fact that the deductions and subsidies for college students were left intact in the joint tax bill.

"If true, this is welcome for the millions of students who use these benefits every year to help them finance a college education," Hartle said. "And since a highly educated workforce is in America's interest, it's good news for the country as well."

A Republican higher education bill that aims to eliminate key loan subsidies for college students and give a boost to for-profit colleges cleared an initial hurdle in the House earlier this week.