Last fall, the president of a small college in Kentucky realized his Christian school might be slapped with a hefty new tax.
He was not happy.
So Lyle Roelofs reached out to Republican Rep. Andy Barr, whose district includes Berea College, to describe how the 1,600-student school would be affected by the proposed 1.4 percent excise tax on large college endowments.
"We knew from the start this was a concern," Roelofs said. He estimated the lost revenue might force him to admit 30 fewer students a year.
Berea College, founded in 1855, was the South's first interracial and co-educational college. Today, none of its students — most of whom come from low-income families and live in Appalachia — pay tuition. "Most of Berea students have this as their only option for coming to college," Roelofs said. "They don't have the ability to pay for an education."
Roelofs soon found a useful ally: the Senate majority leader from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell.
"Sen. McConnell, right from the start, was interested in making sure this tax didn't disadvantage Berea," Roelofs said. "I don't think I even really needed to ask him about that, but of course, I did."
And McConnell offered a solution.