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Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 12:20 am

Letters to the Editor 12/14/17

 


GROWING UP IN JACKSONVILLE

Thanks to David Blanchette for an excellent article on Jacksonville (“Jacksonville has a lot going on”) in the Dec. 7 edition of Illinois Times.

I was privileged to be raised in Jacksonville from kindergarten through high school and Illinois College. It was simply a great place to grow up in the 1930s and ’40s.

We three Mills boys could grab our swimming suits, jump on our bikes, and be at Nichols Park swimming pool in 20 minutes. No one locked their homes, everyone left their car keys on the car floor, and everyone knew whose husband was good and whose check was bad.

The tree-lined streets of my childhood and formative years will always be constant on my mind. Thanks, Dave, for the walk down memory lane.

Richard Mills
United States District Judge


EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

I finished reading Scott Faingold’s article titled “Persistent resistance” published in the Dec. 7 edition of Illinois Times. While there is much to criticize in this article pertaining to the resistance whiners, I will limit my comments to the remarks attributed to Dr. Amy McEuen, associate professor of biology at University of Illinois Springfield.

It appears that Dr. McEuen is as skilled in the art of hyperbole and misrepresentation as she is in the science of biology. She claims that a new provision of the proposed tax bill will punish the poor and people of color, enrich the already wealthy, increase the student debt crisis, and adversely affect important research programs. Saul Alinsky would be proud. However, before readers start to cry in their petri dishes over this evil House (not Senate) Republican tax plan, let’s just look at what the facts tell us.

Under current tax law, there at two types of educational assistance programs excludable from gross income: Code Sec. 117 (a) “qualified scholarships” and Code Sec 117 (d) “qualified tuition reduction.” The important distinction is that Code Sec. 117 (a) scholarships are made without the requirement that the student work as a teaching or research assistant. Code Sec 117 (d)(5) assistance applies to graduate teaching or research performed as a condition of receiving the waiver. Under the proposed tax bill, if you work for the financial assistance you receive under a Code Sec 117 (d) waiver, that assistance would not be excludable from gross income.

Is this the end of western civilization? Hardly. Universities can simply change the terms and conditions of how such assistance is awarded and it can still be excluded from gross income under Code Sec 117 (a). Obviously, the university could no longer require the recipient to work as a condition of receiving the aid, but this is not really an issue, because as Dr. McEuen acknowledges, most recipients are already working and receiving a taxable stipend from the university in exchange for their services. That work would continue unchanged.

I know it makes a bold statement to hold a protest and to be a part of the loyal resistance. But honestly, all you need to do is just restructure the current way tuition waivers are awarded and count your blessings that those mean old Republicans left you with the Code Sec. 117 (a) “loophole,” so use it. Students must learn to adapt to changes in tax law just like everyone else. If the changes are eventually adopted, I am confident that the University of Illinois has sufficient intellectual capacity to implement a solution, and will not leave this issue to be resolved by the martyrs in the biology department.

Gary Hetherington
Springfield

 

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