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 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.