Current Agenda

2013-14 Legislative Priorities

Taxation and Indebtedness (click for White Paper PDF)

Student Debt: A Growing Obstacle for Attaining a Graduate Education: The outstanding student loan balance—$1 trillion according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—surpasses credit card debt (1). 69.6% of graduate students hold student loans with an average cumulative debt of $47,503 (2). The reduction in many student aid programs in addition to the increase in the cost of education is making the financial burden of an advanced education overwhelming. 

 SAGE Recommends:

  • Amend the new Income Based Repayment rules to apply to all outstanding federal student loans, make Income Based Repayment installments regionally sensitive to cost of living, and exclude forgiven student loan debt from taxable income.

“Qualified Higher Education Expenses” Not Defined as Originally Intended: The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) defines the cost of attendance for higher education as the total cost of education, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, etc. In 1986, changes in tax law uniquely disadvantaged graduate students, making portions of fellowship and student aid, such as room and board, taxable income.

 SAGE Recommends:

  • Amend the tax code to define “Qualified Higher Education Expenses” and “Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses” to match the definition of “Cost of Attendance” in section 472 of the HEA.

The Project on Student Debt (2011). Student Debt and the Class of 2010. Washington, DC, The Institute for College Access and Success.

2 FinAid Page, LLC. Student Loans, 2013. Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher. Available from

Resources on the definition of "Qualified Education Expenses"
Internal Revenue Code Section 117: Qualified Scholarships
Internal Revenue Code Section 529: Qualified Tuition Programs

Research Funding (click for White Paper PDF)

Funding Federal Research is Crucial to Our Country’s Economy: The U.S. economy is dependent on groundbreaking research at leading research universities. If the U.S. is to remain a global leader in innovation and technology development, Congress should maintain or increase federal funding of graduate research, which produces cures to diseases, new technology, and a more powerful workforce. 

SAGE Recommends:

  • Congress should maintain, if not increase, federal funding of research.

(click for White Paper PDF)

Visa Reform: Allow World’s Brightest to Create American Jobs: Domestic universities are global leaders that attract the best and brightest international students in pursuit of graduate and professional degrees. SAGE fully supports ongoing efforts for comprehensive immigration reform, and believes that these students play a critical role in US economic growth as well as the retention and advancement of our intellectual property. SAGE believes that changes to our visa system should be enacted to lower the barriers to permanent residency and incentivize these students to stay in the United States permanently. 

SAGE Recommends:

  • Reforms to establish a moving cap based on demand for H1-B visas, grant work permits for spouses of visa holders, exempt students earning a masters or higher degree in a STEM field in the U.S. from the numerical limits on EB visas.
  • F-1 visa reforms to include the lifting of work restrictions and authorization of dual intent.