GOP Tax Plan Raises Concerns for Students

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Republicans in the House and the Senate have passed separate tax plans. The same is true at other institutions such as Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where almost 2,200 and 7,000 graduate students, respectively, receive a tuition remission.

Graduate students across the country have been protesting the House plan, saying it would radically increase the amount students pay in taxes and jeopardize their ability to conduct research and earn advanced degrees.

Rhoads is pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience at Georgetown University.

Blatant taxes imposed on universities is not where the war on education ends.

Universities frequently compensate graduate students with tuition waivers and stipends. "It's still serious because you're taxing income people don't really have. Now if you recruit someone one with a full-tuition scholarship, it will be taxed", he said. The Senate's version would keep the tuition waivers tax-free. These provisions are not included in the tax-cut plan approved by the Senate last Friday and should be stripped from the final bill that emerges when the two versions are reconciled.

University officials themselves said they are trying to decipher the potential financial impact of the proposal and whether there are alternative ways to provide students the same benefits without a tax penalty. While doctoral students who work on campus don't now pay taxes on their tuition waivers, those who opt to work at a private company so they can pay their tuition are taxed on their income, Brady said during a discussion sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

While advocates for colleges and universities welcomed the changes in the Senate bill passed December 2, they said provisions still in that bill also could have adverse impacts on higher education.

Graduate and doctorate students are essential to our country's growth. This means that, if a graduate student has $30,000 put toward their tuition of $50,000 a year for their work as a teaching assistant, their taxable income is now $80,000, whereas under the current tax law it would only be $30,000. "For instance, a new, potentially promising approach to treating cancers and genetic diseases was pioneered by students during their graduate training at Harvard and Berkeley".

The University of MA system estimates that 5,000 of its students receive tuition waivers.

For universities, offering waivers can help attract top students who also work as teaching or research assistants. According to the American Council on Education, about 145,000 graduate students receive this kind of benefit. He estimates the tax would cost him an extra $3,000 to $5,000 a year. President Trump has called the bill a "middle-class tax break".

"We simply can not afford to lose ground in attracting those students who we know will drive innovation, guide the development of new technologies, and perform the type of path-breaking research that will improve our economy and quality of life", he said.

Kim Rueben, a tax policy expert with Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said that while a tax reform could indeed boost the economy, this bill would do the opposite.

Before voting in line with the views of the GOP base, members of Congress should consult the constituency with the most to gain from the tax bill: corporate executives.