Grad Students to Stage Walkout over GOP Tax Plan

Thursday, 30 Nov, 2017

Naeffie said many grad students have families to support.

Whether tuition-waiver provisions from the House tax plan become law or not, Harding is hoping for some sort of assurance from Penn. She said many students would be unable to receive graduate education, to begin with, if the GOP tax changes were to pass.

Hundreds of graduate students at UC Berkeley protest the GOP tax plan on November 29, 2017. The House bill also proposes ending provisions that permit the deductibility of interest on student debt and the exclusion of the value of tuition waivers provided to university employees and/or their family members enrolled at or universities. One allows universities to provide tuition waivers to graduate students so long as they either teach or conduct research. UC Berkeley graduate students Vetri Velan and Kathy Shield created this calculator for graduate students to estimate how much more they could end up paying each year if tuition waivers become taxed.

Gillespie said people often don't realize that in many cases grad students are actually workers.

- Tax university employees and their children for the value of undergraduate tuition waivers provided as a job benefit. The endowments are now untaxed, considered part of the nonprofit mission of universities.

As Nelson Mandela found, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". Students' loan interest deduction is also at risk for repeal. They are part of the package of pursuing graduate education and an essential reason why anyone can afford graduate school at all.

After the rally, graduate students called their congressional representatives, making almost 200 calls during the phone bank.

Tamar Oostrom, who's in her third year towards getting her PhD in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, "This bill would increase our tax by 300 or 400 percent".

The House version of the bill if it becomes law would also eliminate the tax deduction for student loan interest payments, and tax the value of tuition benefits now offered by the universities to faculty and staff and their spouses and children.

"Ultimately, the differences between the House and the Senate will have to be reconciled", he said.

For Joseph Wuest, also a doctoral candidate in political science, the House tax plan is a "direct attack on higher ed and graduate student education".

"One thing that I wanted to say is that we are working really hard in this era to attract more support for financial aid", Wrighton said.

UW administrators said they are anxious about what the tax bill could mean for advanced degree-seekers in Laramie.

All graduate students from the campus's Scandinavian department attended the demonstration with the exception of two, according to Scandinavian doctoral student Adam Carl.

According to numbers that Hyler and her fellow graduate students have crunched, under the current plan a single graduate student who is from outside the state pays 7 percent of their income to taxes.

"I'm sitting on a mortgage with no house to show for it", Wallace said.

The bill would have "an apocalyptic impact on graduate student costs", as our colleague Jewel Lipps (GRD '22) wrote in an email to The Hoya on November 17. In exchange for that, we receive usually quite modest stipends, and we receive tuition waivers, because universities recognize it is not economical for students to go into debt or to be unable to support themselves while they complete their PhDs. This concern about diversity was echoed by other voices of well.

"Tax reform should not be borne on the backs of our hardworking graduate students", the statement said, noting that graduate students "further groundbreaking research, mentor the next generation and contribute to the economy". "Universities, especially state universities, don't do any good if we greatly limit the ability of a wide range of students and citizens in the state to get a higher education".

As part of a planned, nationwide walkout and rally, many grad students at the University of DE did not attend classes Wednesday. None of them relates to whether or not you itemize your deductions.

Athletic donations would also be affected.

Katie Brown and Yvonne Slosarski, both seventh-year communications Ph.D. students at the University of Maryland, say grad students are already extremely vulnerable.