UW, WSU protest plan to tax tuition waivers for grad students

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For Dacen Waters, 26, who is in his fourth year of pursuing a doctorate in physics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the House bill would impose about a $7,000 tax increase, the New York Times reported November 15.

The executive branch and Congress have vowed to pass a new tax reform by the end of 2017, with the new policies taking effect in 2018 - reconciliation is a process that speeds up the budget approval process, allowing the tax reform to be passed with only 50 votes rather than the typical 60 votes, The PHOENIX reported. H.R.1 is now being reviewed in the House with an amendment added by the Senate.

Graduate students at colleges and universities across the country are keeping a watchful eye on federal tax reform, and in particular, whether changes will make tuition waivers taxable.

"If they count our tuition remission as income, then we'll be making less money because we have to pay taxes on that fictional income that we never see", Welch said.

But Chris Aimone, Rose-Hulman executive director of development and senior director of planned giving for the Office of Institutional Advancement, said tax implications are just one consideration for donors to the college. "We plan to continue to work with our lawmakers so that tax-relief does not increase college costs and student debt or impact the quality and accessibility of education". The letter was sent this week to members of the state's congressional delegation. The House version of the bill would change that and for many students, that would mean a 400 percent increase in their taxes.

"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. Furthermore, there is a growing demand for jobs that require higher education outside of the academic setting, and yet these jobs require graduate studies to be fostered within universities.

One provision in the House plan has UC San Diego graduate students extremely concerned. Protesters argued the passing of the Senate bill December 2 was rushed, and that its policies would negatively affect them.

Graham L. Hammill, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School at UB, expressed concern that the measure would force graduate students to spend a significant amount of their stipends on paying taxes.

Students and faculty members spoke at the rally about the impact the bill will have on those in higher education. Unfortunately, the tax plan poses devastating consequences for higher education.

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Adjunct English professor and co-chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Alyson Paige Warren said Loyola's treatment of unions is part of the struggle. "We make the day-to-day of a university function".

Many grad students - especially in Ph.D. programs - receive tuition waivers in exchange for teaching classes or doing research.

Graduate assistants perform duties such as grading assignments, preparing lectures, facilitating labs and study groups, distributing and proctoring exams and teaching classes.

"I've never spent time trying to figure this out until the last three weeks; now I've been thinking about it all the time", said Joe Cronin, 26, a student organizer who is earning his doctoral degree at Harvard in anthropology. "[They don't] have that additional income [because] Loyola is refusing to bargain in good faith with its [adjunct] faculty members and give them the union contract that could turn their poverty wages into a living wage". Protesters vocalized a list of demands at the entrance of the building. What will this do for poorer students whose families can not afford to help them pay off student debt? They announced plans to regather and march again December 10. This leaves the situation somewhat uncertain, but also provides a window of opportunity for students and university officials to make their voices heard, according to Matthew Etchells, president of Texas A&M's Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC).

"The [tax plan] would essentially make going to graduate school prohibitive for the people who can't readily afford it", Duncan said.

"Having that tax liability for at least four, possibly seven, years is just not feasible for me on a graduate assistant income", she said.

Natalia Pamula, a comparative literature doctoral student from Poland, said she would advise worldwide students against pursuing their graduate degree in the U.S.

Nationally, about 145,000 graduate students could be affected.

"When you look at the students that we graduate through these research programs, they're going on to companies like Raytheon and filling jobs that are so much needed by these companies, so it seems like an unfair burden to be putting on these students", UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney said.