A Deadly Combo: GOP Tax Plan Meets PROSPER

Delivering a one-two punch to students and families across the country, proposed changes in a pair of GOP bills will do little to put students, their educations, and their financial futures on the road to success. When combined, the proposed changes in the federal tax reform bill and recently unveiled PROSPER Act — a GOP higher education reauthorization bill — will make postsecondary education even less affordable than it is now, deepen student debt, and allow irresponsible institutions to profit off the detriment of students.

These provisions would eliminate various education-related tax credits, deductions, and tuition benefits that help many students afford the opportunity of achieving a postsecondary degree. Specifically, the PROSPER Act alone seeks to consolidate federal student aid options, reduce or eliminate student loan repayment and forgiveness programs, and repeal important accountability regulations that safeguard the best interests of students.

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Among these are the Gainful Employment and Borrower Defense regulations, two rules protecting students from the predatory practices most associated with for-profit education and training providers. While it does show promise in some areas — reforms in work-study programs and support for apprenticeships, for example — we cannot ignore the overwhelming misstep of the PROSPER Act’s failure to address the critical need for affordability and accountability in higher education.

In Colorado, we know what happens when both go unconsidered: In 2015, 56 percent of Colorado students left school with student loan debt — an average of $25,840 — and a study by the Center for Responsible Lending shows students of Colorado’s four-year, for-profit colleges have a 26 percent graduation rate and walk away with an average loan default rate more than double that of public and private institution students. Voting to pass these bills as proposed would be a complicit endorsement of continuing this trend without regard for the well-being of past, present, and future Colorado students.

More than ever, Coloradans need their elected officials to act responsibly, rather than gambling hard-working students’ opportunity to earn a good life. As these bills take their final shape, we will continue to keep you posted on important developments.