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Letter to the Senate opposing the Kyl amendment, 1/25/07




Dear Senator:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge your opposition to an amendment to be offered by Senator Kyl (R-AZ) to the minimum wage bill.  While we have no position on the substance of the amendment itself, we strongly oppose the proposed offset -- eliminating the exclusion for qualified tuition deduction for college employees.  Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 110th Congress. 

The qualified tuition deduction provides a tax-free reduction in tuition provided by an eligible educational institution for employees of the institution.  Many institutions of higher education use the deduction as a recruitment tool, providing an additional financial benefit for faculty whose relatively lower salaries might otherwise make it difficult to afford the tuition at the very institutions that employ them.  The deduction also provides considerable assistance to support professionals, including administrative assistants, library aides, and other employees seeking to attend school at their institution of employment. 

The majority of college employees--faculty and staff--make only modest salaries, and the ability to further their own education or send their children to college is a financial concern.  National data show that security guards working at public colleges and universities made an average annual salary of $24,317, admissions representatives made $32,006, financial aid counselors made $34,777, accountants made $38,628, and staff nurses made $61,086.  College faculty earn on average about 30 percent less than their counterparts with graduate degrees in the private, non-academic market.  

Removing the exclusion would hurt lowest paid college employees the most-employees who are attracted to work for colleges and stay loyal employees as an opportunity to help send their children to college.  The immediate impact of eliminating the exclusion would effectively be an increase in college costs to these employees. 

Given this highly problematic offset, we urge your opposition to the Kyl amendment.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Policy and Politics