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Chairman Roskam Opening Statement at Oversight Subcommittee Hearing Reviewing Tax-Exempt College and University Endowments

September 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) today delivered the following opening statement at an Oversight Subcommittee Hearing entitled “Back to School: Review of Tax-Exempt College and University Endowments.” 

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“A year ago, this Subcommittee heard from a panel of witnesses about how tuition and student debt loads are spiraling out of control. From 1980 to 2014, the average college tuition increased 260 percent. 260 percent.

“I don’t really need a panel of experts to tell me that, though. When I go home to Illinois, parents tell me all the time about how they are struggling to put their kids through college and how they worry about their children’s future. I’m sure that the rest of our members here can tell similar stories from across the country. We’re here today to tell those families that we hear them and we’re looking for solutions.

“In addition to the tuition they pay, those same parents, along with the rest of American taxpayers give tremendous subsidies to colleges and universities via tax exemptions. Tax policy benefits these institutions in numerous ways. For starters, people who donate to colleges and universities can write off those donations; the schools do not have to pay tax on those gifts; and any investment earnings from those gifts are tax-free.

“Given families’ concerns and the big tax benefits colleges and universities get from taxpayers, the Ways and Means Committee believes it is important for us to keep learning about how these schools are working to fulfill their charitable and educational purposes.  

“Today’s hearing will be an educational experience for our members and the public. Following on our hearing from last October, we’ll be learning more about what’s driving tuition increases. We’ll also be hearing about what some institutions are doing to reduce costs for their students. Some of these ideas are really exciting, and they go to show that this entrenched idea—that tuition has to go up and up and up every year—isn’t gospel truth. Schools can do creative things to reduce their administrative overhead, to develop alternative funding arrangements so students don’t have to borrow as much, and to reward middle class families that save for the future instead of penalizing them with higher tuition. Imagine this: some schools actually have frozen their tuition, and one college we’ll hear from doesn’t even charge tuition.  

“As we have engaged in dialogue with colleges and universities over the past few years, we have learned a lot. We have learned that institutions are differently situated from each other, and one-size-fits all policy solutions may not be the answer. But we also have learned that when institutions prioritize helping their students and creating efficiencies on campus, they can find creative ways to make that happen. We look forward to hearing about some of those ideas today and to hearing expert insight into ways Congress can encourage colleges and universities in these endeavors.”