At a time when the education and skills of America’s workforce are more important than ever before, it is troubling that the House is considering a tax reform bill, HR 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” that would eliminate critical tax relief for investments in postsecondary education and training.
The percentage of U.S. jobs that require postsecondary credentials is expected to reach a new high of 65 percent in 2020. Yet the United States is projected to face shortages of 3 million workers with associate degrees or higher and 5 million workers with technical certificates by that same year (Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce). Postsecondary education has a direct impact on Americans’ earnings and is critical to addressing the skills gap that threatens U.S. competitiveness and job creation.
As currently written, the House proposal would eliminate the Lifetime Learning Credit; Hope Scholarship Credit; student loan interest deductions; and tax-free Employer Education Assistance—all tax provisions designed to help Americans pay for postsecondary education and training. While HR 1 retains the American Opportunity Tax Credit, modestly expanding it to include a 5th year at a reduced rate, it does so at the expense of more widely used and generous tax credits. And according to the American Council of Education (ACE), as written the American Opportunity Tax Credit does not cover graduate students, part-time students, lifelong learners (particularly those seeking retraining), and any student taking longer than five years to finish their education. If enacted, this tax package would harm many nontraditional students—the fastest growing segment of students in postsecondary education.
We understand House Members’ desire to simplify U.S. tax laws and to make sense of multiple tax provisions related to education and training. We are very concerned, however, that eliminating these benefits—especially the Lifelong Learning Credit and the Employer Provided Education Assistance program—will adversely impact the millions of Americans and employers who depend upon this tax relief to pay for necessary education. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is simply not sufficient to take the place of these other tax provisions. We need all of the tools at our disposal to address the education and training needs of America’s current and future workers if we are serious about creating jobs and ensuring widespread economic prosperity.