McConnell Committed to Protecting Scholarships for Berea College Students
‘[J]ust yesterday, we saw that tax reform has already inspired job creators to increase take-home pay for thousands of their employees. Yet not a single Democrat joined us to pass this tax relief for American families. What’s worse, just before we voted, Senate Democrats raised a point of order that proved who is really going after low-income families. When given the chance, Senate Democrats, led by the junior Senator from Vermont, raised a procedural challenge to strike out a provision that pro
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following are prepared remarks by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) regarding an effort by Senate Democrats that will penalize colleges that provide students with tuition-free education:
“Throughout this process of tax reform, Senate Republicans explained time and again that we are fighting for the middle class. Our opponents lobbed one attack after another claiming we were selling hardworking families short. But they were wrong. The tax bill we passed was written to help middle-class families from the very beginning. Our goal was to make their taxes lower, simpler, and fairer.
“Under our legislation, the typical family of four making the median family income can expect nearly $2,000 in tax relief next year. And just yesterday, we saw that tax reform has already inspired job creators to increase take-home pay for thousands of their employees. Yet not a single Democrat joined us to pass this tax relief for American families.
“What’s worse, just before we voted, Senate Democrats raised a point of order that proved who is really going after low-income families. When given the chance, Senate Democrats, led by the junior Senator from Vermont, raised a procedural challenge to strike out a provision that protects colleges that provide students with a tuition-free education.
“Let me say that again – Senate Democrats purposefully penalized schools that give scholarships to low-income students. And they chose to do it after the same provision had already passed the Senate before we went to conference. They didn’t have to raise this challenge – they chose to do so. And in the process they knowingly hurt schools that provide tuition-free education to students who can’t otherwise afford to go to college.
“One of these schools is Berea College, in my home state of Kentucky. Berea is dedicated to educating students from the Appalachian region who have limited economic resources. Their students’ average household income is less than $30,000 per year, and these families simply don’t have the means to pay for their children’s education.
“At Berea, every single student receives a scholarship, which covers the cost of their tuition. On top of that, these students work at the school and in their communities to help cover additional living expenses beyond the cost of attending school. In fact, a vast majority of Berea students are able to graduate debt-free because of this model. Located in one of the most economically challenged areas of my state, Berea College offers a quality education to students with the greatest financial need, and it has done so since 1855 when it was founded by abolitionists.
“Each year, Berea uses the returns on its endowment almost solely for scholarships, which sets it apart from nearly every other college and university in the nation. For this reason, I worked with the Finance Committee to include a provision to protect schools like Berea from taxes on endowments that apply to private schools who choose to sit on these large funds rather than using them aggressively to reduce the cost of attending school.
“But Senate Democrats identified this exemption as a bridge too far. Instead of allowing the provision to stand, thereby protecting students at schools like Berea, they decided to pick partisan politics and attack the measure simply because they could. And in the process, they ensured that Berea would bear the brunt of their blatant political calculation.
“Because Democrats stripped this part of the bill, Berea estimates it could pay a tax penalty of nearly $1 million every year. Berea’s president has already explained to us the effect of this tax: the school will be forced to offer scholarships to fewer students. The junior Senator from Vermont and his allies have chosen to make it harder for low-income students to earn a college degree. This is especially hypocritical coming from the man who claims to support free college for all.
“I’m at a loss for words. I don’t understand how they can claim to fight for students in one moment, and then make it harder for students to afford college the next. They chose to attack the tax bill by any means necessary – even though they knew the outcome – and in the process launched a direct attack on the ability of schools like Berea to provide tuition-free education to its students in need.
“This action by Senate Democrats is deeply disappointing and will produce real harm. I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle realize that the American people will see their partisan tactics for what they really are – an attack on low-income students who want to pursue opportunity and find success.
“A number of my colleagues in Congress have said they are interested in fixing this problem, including my colleague from Kentucky, Congressman Andy Barr. I am committed to working with, with other Members of Congress, and with schools like Berea to help right this wrong.”
Related Issues: Senate Democrats, Education