Hillsdale College

Clarification please: Associated Press adds to confusion in private higher ed story (updated)

Clarification please: Associated Press adds to confusion in private higher ed story (updated)

This is not rocket science. (Or maybe it is? See update at the end of this piece.)

For a week or so, I have been watching to see if editors at the Associated Press were going to run a correction about a story about some fine print in the Republican tax bill. The headline on that story stated: "Senate votes to block special break for conservative college."

Note that the word "college" is singular.

That "fact" was at the heart of the debate, as shown in the overture for this hard-news story:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats ... successfully blocked a provision in the Republicans’ sweeping tax bill designed to give a special tax break to a conservative college in Michigan.
Democrats said the tax break was designed to help just one politically-connected school: Hillsdale College in southern Michigan.
“I can’t find anybody else in America who benefits from this particular provision. That doesn’t strike me as right,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said, “It feels like this is a very limited provision written for a very special person.”

The key fact here is that Hillsdale College does not accept federal funds, including funds linked to scholarships and student aid. The basic idea is that government money will inevitably have strings attached. Thus:

The tax package would impose a new tax on investment income earned by some private universities and colleges. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., added a provision exempting certain colleges that don’t receive federal funds. Democrats said Hillsdale was the only college that would benefit.

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