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VOL. 23, NO. 2September 12, 1997

Columbia Helps Save Tuition Benefit

This past summer, one of the major tax bills being negotiated on Capitol Hill was very important to higher education in general and Columbia in particular.

  Columbia led the coalition that saved Section 117(d), the tax provision that allows employees and their children to take undergraduate courses tax-free and provides tax-free tuition waivers for graduate research and teaching assistants..

  In July, as budget negotiations between the White House and Congress neared an end, President George Rupp recognized that there was a serious possibility that the provision would be terminated and employees and graduate students taxed. He asked Vice President for Public Affairs Alan Stone and Assistant Vice President and Director of Federal Relations Ellen S. Smith to form a coalition and do all they could to save the provision that benefits many Columbians. Stone and Smith brought on board five associations (The Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the College and University Personnel Association, and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities), and many major universities. Columbia graduate students joined their peers around the country to argue for the graduate portion of the provision.

  The result? The current law was retained.

  President Rupp said: "This benefit is very important to University employees. I am delighted it was not taxed in the final bill."

  "We won," said Smith. "The benefit remains untaxed. We thank all Columbia employees and graduate students who took the time to write or call their representatives. You helped make sure this benefit was protected."

  The next objective? Restoring the Section 127 tax benefits for graduate education.