topSkip to main content

Menu, Secondary

Menu Trigger


Taxing College Endowments

Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, responded to The New York Times article, "How a Tuition-Free College Turned Into a Casualty of the Tax War,." with the following Letter to the Editor:

To the Editor:

A Tuition-Free College Takes a Hit” (news article, Dec. 21) correctly identifies the polarized and flawed decision-making process in Congress. It misses the mark, however, by saying the goal of the 1.4 percent excise tax on certain private university endowment earnings is to encourage them to provide more funding for “financial aid and lower tuition.”

In fact, the tax includes no incentives for spending that would in any way make college more affordable. Rather, the tax is a blanket transfer to the federal government of funds that support student aid, research and other programs.

Targeting the endowment funds of colleges and universities that provide the most generous student aid packages undermines the goal of making higher education more affordable and accessible to all students. The rhetoric claiming that this tax is pro-student is simply that, and it is unfortunate that politics have come to outweigh sound policy decisions.

A version of this letter appears in print on January 1, 2018, on Page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Taxing College Endowments.


Founded in 1900, the Association of American Universities comprises 62 distinguished institutions that continually advance society through education, research, and discovery.

Our universities earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for academic research, are improving human life and wellbeing through research, and are educating tomorrow’s visionary leaders and global citizens.

AAU members collectively help shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation; promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education; and strengthen the contributions of research universities to society.

Follow AAU on Twitter, on Facebook and on Linkedin.