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How the GOP Tax Plan Could Destroy Science in America

21 November 2017

"Universities that wish to avoid saddling their graduate students with large tax bills... can reclassify their qualified tuition waivers as scholarships, and avoid incurring any tax consequences", wrote Preston Cooper in a blog for the American Enterprise Institute. These tuition waivers - which constitutes income students never see as it is in exchange for their work - were previously not considered part of their taxable income.

This could be financially ruinous for current graduate students, and it would provide an enormous disincentive for future students to apply for a research-focused degree program-especially since the massive tax bill would apply for all five or six years of a program. These students will go on to give us advances in science, technology and medicine, and will further our understanding of the natural world, business and society. Cornell, instead of requiring specific teaching/research acts from these graduate students, should only require a general commitment to a department, much like student-athletes are required to commit to their team. While my current institution is supportive and nurturing of doctoral students, at too many places I have seen them being used as cheap labor to staff undergraduate classes and to support faculty research. I don't have a spouse, trust fund, or parents to cover my cost of living or my tuition. This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. "This bill would increase our tax by 300 or 400 percent".

The ability to recruit the best in the world has been a strength of the US system, but I am not sure it would be a healthy development to have fewer domestic students in doctoral programs. "That [$279] is groceries for a month, that's a significant chunk of rent and any other costs that you may be facing". As a result, the cost of graduate tuition, which is often set by lucrative fields like law and medicine, will count as income if it's waived.

While those companies get rich and Republicans preach about how they will reinvest that money in jobs, there's another group of Americans who are getting royally screwed: students.

Though the provisions directly impact graduate students, Gonzaga professor David Schroeder said the impacts would trickle down to undergraduates as well.

"The annual stipend for a PhD student in Carnegie Mellon's school of computer science is about $32,400".

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I'm a graduate student at M.I.T., where I study the neurological basis of mental health disorders.

If the tax bill goes through the way it is now written by the House, you can say goodbye to a number of tax benefits for college.

"This is WSU's No. 1 priority in the tax bill", she said. "And to slightly reduce the tax rates for people above that low threshold amount and to pay for those changes by removing selected items that only selected people get".

UB will advocate for the removal of the provision that would tax graduate student tuition, Hammill said. The students who will be hit hardest - many of whom will nearly certainly have to leave academia entirely - are those from communities that are already underrepresented in higher education. Both of these deductibles have been repealed in the House tax bill. Section 117 (a), US Tax Code.

If I had to pay for my own education, it would've been simply out of the question.

Leading up to Saturday's vote, student leaders from across the graduate and professional schools at the University worked together to raise awareness of the ramifications of the bill and encourage their representatives to vote against it. Her work as a teaching assistant has also allowed her and other TAs to foster a community of learning across the University. I'd say that's a pretty good return on investment for United States taxpayers.

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"Taxing graduate students will prove to be a disincentive to completing graduate degrees", Hamill said.

Hill and other MIT students say the tax proposal is ill-conceived.

This change is a feature in the House bill, not the Senate version, and others argue it won't have as much of an impact as students and their advocates fear.

Ending waivers' tax-free status is "not in the Senate bill and we have no interest in putting it in the Senate bill", said Conn Carroll, spokesman for Sen. "The beauty of advocacy is people remembering the power of their voice as a constituent in a certain district".

"If you look underneath the rate, more of your income is taxed at a lower rate, and so according to the Joint Committee on Taxation - which is the official scorekeeper of these things - every single person, every rate payer, every bracket person gets a rate cut", Ryan said in a November 7 interview on the Rush Limbaugh Show.

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How the GOP Tax Plan Could Destroy Science in America