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Campus Q&A: What the tax reform would mean for graduate students

01 December 2017, 04:39 | Cedric Leonard

Grad Students Would Be Hit By Massive Tax Hike Under House GOP Plan

UMN graduate students worry over financial impact of GOP tax plan

On Tuesday afternoon, a demonstration to raise awareness for the GOP tax plan brought together students - in conjunction with the national Graduate Student Walkout - outside of Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus.

When a graduate student works as a research assistant, the University covers the cost of the student's tuition and that money is not counted as taxable income; in exchange, the student performs research relevant to their work. The Student Loan Interest Deduction - used by many to help pay off their loans - could be eliminated, Employer-provided tuition benefits, which employers use to make sure they have a well-trained workforce, would be treated as taxable income.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on its tax reform bill next week, however, there is no stipulation in that bill that would effect grad students as it does in the House proposal.

In response, the University sent out an email to graduate students on November 17, addressing their concerns and assuring them that they were working with other Universities as well as allies in Congress to oppose the tax changes.

Still, Graves' spokesman says the congressman shares "concerns over the potential impact to grad students" and has spoken with House leadership about them.

"I am a first-generation college student and an immigrant to the United States", Gillespie said, "and I absolutely could not go to graduate school were it not for this tuition waiver". If and when the Senate passes a bill, I hope that the conference process will improve the final product.

Students chanted "one, two, three, four, tax the rich and not the poor!" and "two, four, six, eight, educate and agitate!"

Grad Students Would Be Hit By Massive Tax Hike Under House GOP Plan
Column: Tax plan hurts college students

Tuition waivers are a mainstay of graduate school, putting a master's degree or doctorate within reach for students who otherwise could not afford it, college students and administrators say.

Schwartz said that unlike corporations and the wealthy, graduate students don't have lobbies to represent them in Washington, D.C. So instead they have to organize to try to make their voices heard. Under the bill that passed the House, these students would have to report this tuition forgiveness as personal income, which would be particularly devastating for their day-to-day finances. Losing us would force the university to cancel classes typically run by graduate students, like "Drugs, the Brain and Behavior". The students have claimed that no university representative has yet come for negotiations. Many students said the new tax bill would normalize student debt.

"I think that people always act out of self-interest, especially in politics".

For students like Brown, the unforgiving tax proposal would make it hard for her and her partner to complete their dissertations. However, the provision will impact most graduate students in other divisions of the University like the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering. At the current lowest tax rate, that means one will pay an additional $250 in taxes. "There's a lot of good work taking place on this campus that would be halted by this bill". "We must be very careful stewards of the limited funds we have for aid", Green said. By requiring grad students to pay taxes on the full amount of the tuition waiver plus the stipend, the bill would increase their tax bracket.

Overall, we conclude that the inclusion of tax waivers in eventual tax reform legislation is key for graduate students, lest their tax burden increase drastically. O'Shea wrote. "Enactment of those provisions would hurt students and their families and limit access to higher education".

The innovations that have created our health and prosperity today were built on the research of yesterday's graduate students. He lives on about $30,000 a year from a stipend provided by the university.

It would also repeal the estate tax, which could cut charitable giving by 6 to 12 percent and reduce bequests by 16 to 28 percent, according to studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the Brookings Institution.

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