Washington's war on poor grad students

Report prompts administrative discussion about graduate student stipends

Washington's war on poor grad students

Last week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest multidisciplinary science society, joined the university groups, noting that about 60 percent of the graduate students who receive waivers are in science, technology, engineering and math programs that are critical to the nation.

They'll still be poor if the House version of the tax bill emerges from Congress - but because tuition is so high, they'd be taxed as though they were members of the middle class. Money that graduate students never actually see would be counted as taxable income.

Of 4,700 UH graduate students, about a quarter, or 1,247 students, receive what's known as a "tuition tax waiver" under the current US tax code. Graduate students often see the high tuition costs of graduate education waived by their institutions to allow them to come and study, especially if they can not otherwise afford to study.

Graduate student in the Physics department Angela Berti and the Stewards of the Student-Workers Union collectively commented on the importance of demonstrating opposition to the bill. Rather, graduate students are speaking out "to make our labor visible" and to show how the House tax bill "further marginalizes people in our university whose situation is already the most vulnerable", especially students from low-income families, many of whom are minority members or the first generation in their family to attend college.

Third-year student Sean Pears called it an "incredibly cynical and destructive proposal" that would force students either to leave graduate school or take out student loans to pay taxes. Those waivers are given to students who serve as teaching or research assistants while they're pursuing advanced degrees.

"Donors often restrict funds for specific purposes, sometimes for students, to be sure, sometimes for faculty members, sometimes for particular buildings, sometimes for specific programs", Seligman told WXXI News. Of most concern is the repeal of a provision that protects tuition waivers from being classified as taxable income.

Anna Lyon, a UT doctoral student in American studies, is paid about $15,000 a year as a teaching assistant. The salary is and has always been taxable income (as it should be), but the $5,000-and-change is money the student never gets to see. "You go through thinking tax cuts, you don't really expect an administration to go after economic drivers like grad students, particularly those of us in sciences". At times, I just address whatever of interest is going on in the Church. "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". In her letter, Rooney stated her disapproval for the tax bill and support for higher education.

But the tax bill approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which aims at cutting taxes and simplifying the tax code, calls for ending the exemption on those tuition waivers.

The prospect of that sends shudders through UH's grad school community.

Hammill said numerous protesters were likely from departments that haven't caught up with national averages for stipend levels. The changes in taxation on colleges and universities, will make college less affordable to a vast majority of students. He makes a stipend of $30,000, which is already taxed, for research he does at the UW on air pollution. The Maryland native, whose out-of-state UH tuition is $37,000, earns a $17,500 stipend.

"I think students are being ignored", Meehan said in an interview.

"What makes the US economy competitive is our universities and what comes out of them", he said.

In a statement to The New School Free Press, a university spokesperson said, "The New School, like all American universities, is concerned about the potential implications of the proposed tax legislation for our students".

The Canadian citizen said he would seriously consider moving back to Canada with his wife or pursuing the rest of his education in Europe if it came to that. It affects 3 million of us, but you may not be one yourself. "And that includes living paycheck to paycheck".

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said eliminating the tax waiver would disproportionately harm students in STEM fields at the nation's research universities.

All of us should be alarmed by the threatened disruption of thousands of students' professional trajectories.

Without graduate students, we won't have professors.

Gut graduate education in America and you'll gut education as a whole.

Signs, speeches and slogans at the rally expressed the impact the GOP tax plan would have on graduate students' livelihood.

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