Rep. Steve Knight turns his back on California students, universities

Congressman Steve Knight

Rep. Knight ignored pleas from California colleges and universities when he voted for a tax bill that would likely "adversely impact" students and public higher education.

At least three California organizations representing colleges and universities sent letters to Rep. Steve Knight warning him that the Republican tax scheme would harm students, faculty, and one of the state’s largest employers.

Those pleas fell on deaf ears, as Knight voted in favor of the deeply unpopular tax scam.

In a letter to Knight and all California representatives, the University of California (UC) wrote that the bill, H.R. 1, “will have a harmful impact on the University, our students, faculty, and staff.” The letter lays out specific details on the harms the bill would cause:

H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would make higher education less affordable and accessible. It would threaten UC’s ability to carry out its research, education, health care, and public service missions, and it would harm the financial security of our students and their families. This legislation would adversely impact UC’s ability to serve as an engine for economic growth and innovation across California, educate the next-generation’s workforce, pursue groundbreaking research, and deliver cutting-edge medical education and health care services.

UC is the largest public research university system on the planet, and the third largest employer in California. Unfortunately, the scam that Knight and his Republican colleagues voted for will give billions of dollars to wealthy families at the expense of California’s “neediest students or most vulnerable patients being able to maintain access to quality higher education.”

California State University (CSU) also wrote to Knight about their concerns, including provisions that will increase student loan debt:

“Eliminating deductions for student loan interest, tax exclusions for training paid by employers, as well as tuition discounts offered by institutions for their employees (including graduate and doctoral students who receive tuition waivers in exchange for serving as teaching assistants), will increase the cost to attend college and increase student loan debt. These changes will also make it harder for families to afford college and for graduates to pay off their loans.”

Rather than try to help reduce crushing student loan debt, Knight voted for a bill that would do the opposite: make it harder to pay for college, and make it harder for graduates to pay off student loans.

Further, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, wrote to Knight warning of “detrimental impacts on California students and families.” The letter went into details about several provisions that help non-traditional students, such as “adults returning to school for skills-focused education to obtain new jobs or advancement in their current occupations.”

Knight voted to remove those provisions for students, yet kept a loophole to allow millionaires to write off payments on a luxury yacht.

Knight promised that getting a bill that would help his constituents was his “number one priority.”

Unfortunately, it is clear where Knight’s priorities lay: he would rather take orders from Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan than help thousands of Californians he is supposed to represent.

When Knight wasn’t able to make any significant changes to the bill, he abandoned his pledge and voted with his party and against the interests of his constituents.

Now students, colleges, and universities could pay a high price for trusting in Steve Knight.