Feature Story

Talking Tax Reform

November 13, 2017 – by Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones has been contacted by national and state media this month to discuss potential implications of federal tax reform. (Photo by Kristin Barlowe)

President Rock Jones Shares Insights in National, Ohio News Articles

As the U.S. Congress debates tax reform, Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones has a message to share about a House proposal to tax the endowments of many private colleges and universities. 

“I think this is deeply troubling,” Jones, Ph.D., told the Washington, D.C.-based National Journal in a Nov. 7 article. “It is in effect a tax on philanthropy.” 

Currently, the House tax reform bill is proposing a 1.4 percent tax on investment income for private colleges and universities with at least 500 students and endowments valued at least $250,000 per student. 

The proposal would not directly affect Ohio Wesleyan, but Jones told The (Columbus) Dispatch in a Nov. 12 article, “What we know about these kinds of efforts is it never stays where it starts.” 

Jones and others are concerned that, if enacted, an endowment tax would impact the ability of affected private colleges to use their endowment proceeds as intended by donors, including providing scholarships for low-income students. At Ohio Wesleyan, he said, the University’s endowment annually covers about 20 percent of a student’s overall cost. 

Additional components of the tax reform plan are equally concerning, Jones told the national and Ohio reporters, including a proposal that would repeal a number of higher education tax credits, such as the Student Loan Interest Deduction. 

Another component would repeal Private Activity Bonds, eliminating the tax exemption for interest on new private activity bonds. Such a change, Jones said, essentially would prevent private institutions from using tax-exempt bond financing. 

“(The) provisions related to higher education have the impact of increasing the cost of college for students at a time when virtually all of America and all of our political leaders are publicly concerned about the increasing cost of college,” Jones told Dispatch reporter Jennifer Smola in her Page 1 article. “Yet this, as a matter of public policy, would force college costs to increase.”