Zimbabwe:Exiled Cabinet Minister Moyo Planning to Return Home?

Former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo is reportedly planning to return home, less than a year after he sneaked out of the country as the military closed in on him and his cohorts in Zanu PF’s G40 faction. Moyo was part of former President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle during the mayhem that engulfed the ruling party in the succession struggle last year forcing the November military intervention.

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Yes, there really is a tax break for upper-income graduate students and Congress won’t let it expire – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

In an earlier Evidence Speaks post this year, Susan Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton summarized important research showing that federal tax benefits for college tuition have had no measurable impact on increasing college-going behavior.[1] Moreover, they note that the benefits are numerous, overlapping and complicated. Yet for all their flaws, these tax breaks enjoy such strong support from lawmakers that even the oddest one, which quietly expires each year, is always revived in a last-minute bill just in time for the tax filing season. The tuition and fees deduction (“the deduction”) was recently extended for a seventh time in an omnibus budget bill in February.[2] Out of all the tuition tax benefits the government offers, this one should be relatively easy to let go because of whom it unintentionally targets.

@brybree via Twenty20

Here is how the deduction works. Tax filers can deduct up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid for higher education in the tax year. It is an “above-the-line” deduction, meaning filers can claim it without having to itemize deductions. As a deduction, filers earn a benefit equal to their marginal tax rate. The maximum benefit any filer could extract from the deduction is $880, the top marginal tax rate of those who are eligible (22 percent) times $4,000. There is no limit to the number of times a filer can claim the deduction, so long as he has incurred tuition expenses, and it does not matter what type of credential he pursues. There is, however, an income limit. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) cannot claim it.

There is nothing odd about those terms per se, but they interact with other tax benefits the government offers for tuition such that only upper-income graduate students benefit from the deduction. First, undergraduates, while eligible for the deduction, don’t claim it because a different tax credit only for undergraduates is more beneficial: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,500 in tax relief for filers earning up to $90,000 ($180,000 for joint filers).[3] Tax filers can claim only one tuition tax benefit although they usually qualify for more than one. Second, graduate students with lower and middle incomes are also eligible for the deduction, but they can claim the $2,000 Lifetime Learning Credit, which almost always delivers a bigger tax break than the tuition and fees deduction.[4] But the Lifetime Learning credit has a lower income cut-off than the deduction. Those earning over $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers) in 2017 cannot claim it.[5]

That’s how the deduction ends up targeting upper-income graduate students. While graduate students would always obtain a larger benefit from the Lifetime Learning Credit, they cannot claim it if they earn more than $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers). They can, however, claim the deduction until their earnings exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). Thus a narrow band of graduate students, those earning between the income limits for the two benefits, are the only students who would claim the deduction. At those levels, their incomes are higher than the incomes of about 80 percent of U.S. households.[6] Of course, tax filers can unintentionally claim a less generous benefit if they are eligible for more than one, such as an undergraduate claiming the deduction when she was eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which does happen.[7]

What the data say about eligible students

Using a representative sample of graduate students in 2011-12, Kim Dancy of New America and I estimated that just 8 percent of graduate students would benefit from the deduction. Meanwhile, 64 percent of graduate students would benefit most from the Lifetime Learning Credit. The rest of graduate students (28 percent) were ineligible for any tax benefit because they have no taxable income, their tuition was fully covered by grants and scholarships, or their earnings were too high.[8] The analysis assumes that tax filers claim the benefit that provides them with the largest tax reduction if they qualify for more than one. These numbers have likely shifted in recent years, with even fewer students benefiting from the deduction, because Congress has increased the earnings cap for the Lifetime Learning Credit to account for inflation but left the limits for the deduction unchanged.

We also estimated the average benefit graduate students would claim through the deduction for the 2011-12 academic year. At $621, it was smaller than the $859 average benefit that filers eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit could claim.[9] Due to small sample sizes, however, we were unable to reliably assess important characteristics of filers eligible for the deduction, such as field of study.

The deduction didn’t start out as a graduate school tax break

As is often the case in public policy, lawmakers did not set out explicitly to provide a tax break to upper-income graduate students. In fact, graduate students were never the target group for the tuition tax breaks; undergraduates were always the focus. Although graduate students have been eligible for the tax benefits since their inception, changes to the policies over the years have left the deduction benefiting upper-income graduate students alone.

Prior to mid-1990s, the federal government did not offer widely-available tax breaks for college tuition. The idea first gained prominence when President Clinton proposed a $10,000 deduction for college tuition as part of his “Middle-Class Bill of Rights” reelection platform.[10] After critics noted that a deduction would provide more help to families in higher tax brackets, Clinton added a separate tax credit for the first two years of college to his proposal to provide more even benefits.[11] Congress adopted the president’s idea for the credit in 1997, naming it the Hope Tax Credit, but rejected the additional proposal for a $10,000 deduction. They instead replaced that proposal with a separate credit for “lifelong learning” (i.e., the Lifetime Learning Credit) that families could claim for education after the first two years of college, including graduate school.[12]

Thus, President Clinton’s original idea for a deduction and a credit was replaced with two credits, the Hope Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. In keeping with their original purpose to provide middle-class tax relief, Congress capped income eligibility for both benefits at $55,000 ($100,000 for joint filers) in 1997.[13]

With these two tax credits on the books, the idea of a deduction for tuition would be unnecessary and redundant, yet Congress later decided to add one anyway. Seemingly out of nowhere, lawmakers included a $4,000 deduction for tuition and fees in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the sweeping bill that included President Bush’s campaign proposal to cut marginal tax rates.[14]

The deduction differed from the two initial tax credits in a key way, which partially explains why lawmakers added it. Families earning up to $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) would be eligible as of 2004. That was significantly higher than the income cutoff for the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits at the time and would therefore offer tax benefits to families with incomes arguably well above middle class. But why not just raise the income limits on the existing credits then? Because creating the new deduction was a way to restrict costs relative to expanding the existing Lifetime Learning Credit in terms of forgone revenue to the government. Recall that the value of the deduction is worth the amount deducted times the marginal tax rate, which at the time it was created would have been $1,120 at the most.[15] That is about half the maximum value of the Lifetime Learning credit.[16]

In other words, the deduction was a way to let upper-income families into the college tax benefit club on the cheap. It also ensured their benefits would be smaller than those of the middle-class families, who were eligible for the credits.

At the time it was created, the deduction was as much an undergraduate benefit as a graduate one. Upper-income families would claim it for tuition paid in pursuit of either degree. According to my analysis referenced earlier, about the same share of graduate students as undergraduates qualified for it prior to 2009.[17] But in 2009, Congress would make it pointless for almost any undergraduate to claim the deduction. That year, lawmakers replaced the Hope Credit with the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provided larger benefits than the deduction with an income cutoff even higher than the deduction. With upper-income undergraduates now qualifying for American Opportunity Tax Credit, graduate students became the only group left who could benefit from the original tuition and fees deduction.

Conclusion

While Congress never decided to directly create a special tax break for upper-income graduate students alone, opting to extend the deduction year after year is effectively the same thing. The latest one-year extension, which made the deduction available for the 2017 tax year, cost the government over $200 million in forgone revenue.[18]

At a time when an undergraduate education feels financially out of reach for so many families, it’s fair to ask why Congress continues to spend these resources on students who have already earned an undergraduate degree. Moreover, these students earn a median household income of $102,000, according to my analysis.[19] There does not appear to be a good answer to that question other than inertia. Lawmakers have always extended the benefit so they continue to extend it. They may not realize, however, that it no longer benefits undergraduate students.

All of the tax benefits may be a policy failure for not increasing enrollment or being overly complex, but at least those for undergraduates put more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income families working toward their first degree. Today, the deduction does neither. It helps those who already have an undergraduate degree and earn high incomes to boot. While its cost in terms of forgone revenue are relatively modest, those resources would be better spent on aid that encourages students to enroll in and complete an undergraduate degree.

Footnotes

[1] Sue Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton, “The Tax Benefits for Education Don’t Increase Education,” Brookings Institution, April 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-tax-benefits-for-education-dont-increase-education/.
[2] Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Public Law 115–123, § 40203 (2018).
[3] Internal Revenue Service, “Instructions for Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits) (2017),” https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8863.pdf.
[4] There are some circumstances when the deduction might produce a larger benefit than the Lifetime Learning Credit if a filer paid tuition and fees below $4,000 and he is in the highest tax bracket of those eligible for the deduction. For example, a filer in the 22% tax bracket who deducts $3,000 in expenses receives a $660 tax reduction; under the Lifetime Learning credit his benefit would be $600.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Author’s calculation using the American Community Survey, 2016.
[7] Government Accountability Office, “Improved Tax Information Could Help Families Pay for College,” May 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590970.pdf
[8] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[9] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.
[10] William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on the Middle Class Bill of Rights,” December 15, 1997, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=49591.
[11] Douglas Lederman, “The Politicking and Policy Making Behind a $40-Billion Windfall: How Clinton, Congress, and Colleges Battled to Shape Hope Scholarships,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 1997.
[12] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 201 (1997).
[13] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 101 (1997).
[14] Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, Public Law 107–16 § 431 (2001).
[15] The top marginal tax rate for filers eligible for the deduction was 28 percent in the mid 2000s.
[16] See endnote 4. for an explanation of how sometimes when tuition and fees are below $4,000, tax filers can qualify for a larger tax reduction through the deduction than if the Lifetime Learning Credit.
[17] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “A New Look at Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, November 2015, https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/10416-a-new-look-at-tuition-tax-benefits/TaxCredits11.2.277d3f7daa014d5a8632090f97641cee.pdf; and Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[18] Joint Committee on Taxation, “Federal Tax Provisions Expired in 2017” (JCX-5-18), March 9, 2018.
[19] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.

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The Diversity Staff at the University of Michigan Is Nearly 100 Full-Time Employees

Year after year, media note and sometimes bemoan the ballooning cost of higher education.

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There are various reasons for surging costs, but the primary one is the remarkable expansion of university administration in recent decades. As Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, wrote in the New York Times a few years ago:

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Universities are large and require administrators to function, of course. The problem is there seems to be no end to the expansion. This point was recently illustrated by Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Perry, who also is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, used the University of Michigan as an example to highlight the rise of “diversicrats” (diversity bureaucrats) on today’s campuses. The numbers are astonishing.

  1. The University of Michigan currently employs a diversity staff of nearly 100 (93) full-time diversity administrators, officers, directors, vice-provosts, deans, consultants, specialists, investigators, managers, executive assistants, administrative assistants, analysts, and coordinators.
  2. More than one-quarter (26) of these “diversicrats” earn annual salaries of more than $100,000, and the total payroll for this small army is $8.4 million. When you add to cash salaries an estimated 32.45% for UM’s very generous fringe benefit package for the average employee in this group (retirement, health care, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, paid leave, paid vacation, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, etc.) the total employee compensation for this group tops $11 million per year. And of course that doesn’t count the cost of office space, telephones, computers and printers, printing, postage, programs, training, or travel expenses.

If you fell out of your chair upon realizing that the University of Michigan has a full-time diversity staff of nearly one hundred employees, one of whom earns more than the president of the United States, you can be forgiven. I nearly did too.

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The post The Diversity Staff at the University of Michigan Is Nearly 100 Full-Time Employees appeared first on American Renaissance.

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Purges on Campus

Readers of this column know well that much space has been reserved in order to bring to the public’s attention two immense industries that otherwise aren’t typically recognized as such.  They are the Academic-Industrial-Complex (AIC) and the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC).

Readers also know that the AIC, for all of its massiveness, is actually but a facet of the vastly larger RIC.  Some recent examples from the world of Higher Education make this abundantly, painfully clear.

[1] Duke University just dropped Professor Evan Charney.  His defenders, particularly his student defenders, suspect that Charney, a white man, was let go because the manner in which he critically engages his students led some to charge him with making his classroom into an “unsafe space” for minority students.

In a letter published by more than 100 of Charney’s students in The Duke Chronicle, some of Charney’s students, including his international students, defended him against the charge that “his class reproduces systems and structures of inequality involving notions of class, privilege and power.”  Charney, the letter reads, has a “teaching style” that is “wonderfully thought-provoking and challenging.  His students’ ideas are vetted and sharpened through rigorous debate and discussion” on a range of issues, and everyone is made to feel uncomfortable through exposure to “viewpoints that conflict with how they think and what they value.”

Charney is known by his students for his “Socratic format,” a style that leaves no “thought…unexamined” or “assertion…unchecked.”

At one point—perhaps this was the final trigger to have broken the leftist juggernaut’s back—Professor Charney used a whole class period to critically interrogate “the motivations and tactics” of students who staged a weeklong sit-in over a racially-oriented event that occurred in 2016.  He “challenged” students to “argue cogently in favor of or against the movement,” an approach that “put the burden on protesters in his class to justify their actions [.]”

Though Charney’s publications include analyzes of “liberal bias,” neither he nor his students are in any obvious way “conservative.”  At least this is the most reasonable conclusion to draw from looking at the views expressed in the student letter to the Chronicle and a listing of some of the classes that Charney typically teaches: While his area of expertise is “genomics and genetics,” specifically “behavioral genetics,” Charney regularly taught a seminar on “Global Inequality research.” 

In fact, that Charney would even take up class time to discuss issues that seem to fall well beyond the jurisdiction of his courses suggests that his instincts as a professor are more at home among the ideology of the colleagues and students who favor his termination than they are the approach to teaching traditionally found among more conservative professoriate.

[2] Yet even faculty who have spent their lives on the left are discovering that they are not safe.  Brett Weinstein is a left-leaning professor at Evergreen State College in Washington.  When he objected to a “Day of Absence,” an event during which whites would avoid campus while non-whites, or “POC” (People of Color), hold workshops, both he and his students were subjected to harassment and intimidation.  When campus police informed Weinstein that they could not protect him, he was forced to hold class off-campus at a park.

Administrators decided this year that in place of a Day of Absence, Evergreen would instead hold an “equity symposium.” Student activists, however, resolved to hold their event despite the school’s change of plans. The theme of this year’s affair is, “Deinstitutionalize/Decolonize.” According to the RSVP page:

“The mission of this event is to bring POC together in order to create a reclamation of space and move forward into the future.  In reaction to [the] institution’s consistent disregard for our safety, we are operating independently of the college. This is a day for us, by us.”

If whites insist upon attending, they will be directed toward “antiracist workshops.”

[3] The University of Michigan is among over 230 colleges and universities nationwide with a “Bias Response Team.” Yet it is among “the most established,” according to The Detroit News.  Whether the “bias” is “intentional or unintentional,” if team members determine that speech contains unacceptable bias, it exacts disciplinary action that ranges from requiring “restorative justice” to “individualized education” to “unconscious bias training.”  

Fortunately, the University of Michigan is now on the receiving end of a lawsuit. 

According to the complaint, such is the restrictive nature of the University’s interpretation of “bullying,” “harassment,” and “bias” that it threatens “staggering amounts of protected speech and expression.”

Nichole Neilly, whose Japanese-American parents met in an internment camp during World War II, is especially sensitive to infringements of liberty.  She is the head of “Speech First.”  The University’s current system, given that it incentivizes members of the school community to anonymously blow the whistle on others, “is not workable,” Neilly says. “Students should be able to express themselves without fear of retribution.”

Speech First found that in just this past year, UM investigated over 150 incidents of alleged “bias.”

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation says of speech restrictions of the sort found at UM that they are “Draconian” and reminiscent of East Germany and Orwell’s 1984.

[4] At Georgetown University, left-wing student activists are laboring to prevent campus police from being armed.  If police are armed, the students maintain, minority students will be threatened.

On a Facebook post, “Georgetown United Against Police Aggression” self-identifies as “a group of students concerned about GUPD’s impact on Georgetown’s communities of color.” The group shares a letter that it issued to the school’s president urging him “to not arm GUPD [.]”

Among the 30 or so signatories to the letter are such groups as: African Society of Georgetown; Black Student Alliance; Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Forum; Casa Latina; GU Women of Color; Georgetown University College Democrats; Georgetown Young Democratic Socialists; Hoyas for Immigration Rights; Muslim Students Association; Native American Student Council; Queer People of Color; and Students for Justice in Palestine.

The Racism-Industrial-Complex knows no bounds, but academia is a bastion of it. Of course, RIC has facilitated the Academic-Industrial-Complex as well.

Anyone who can still doubt this is either naïve or in denial.   

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Regents to make university president job interviews public

The Utah Board of Regents, the state’s higher education governing body, has taken a major step in making more transparent its search process for future Utah State University presidents and other higher education leaders in the state. Last month, during …

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