For this week’s blog I wanted to bring light to [what I consider] an important and distressing issue regarding the proposed GOP tax bill. For those of you who are unaware, the proposed GOP tax bill removes a few tax provisions that were geared to limiting education related taxes. One key provision allowed nontaxable tuition waivers/credits to be given to both undergraduate and graduate students. For graduate students especially, this provision is a significant tax break and in its absent students will be on the hook for substantially more taxes.
Here are some links to various news report (there are plenty to find from a number of outlets)
The council of graduate schools (first link) provided some examples about what taxing tuition waivers will mean for graduate students, seen below.
As a current graduate student I find this distressing for a number of reasons. Obviously, the stipends we receive are generally skirting the edge of a living wage anyway, add in additional taxes on money we (as students) never see and you are quickly approaching a situation where it is financially unsustainable to attend graduate school. Personally, I feel that the pros and cons to life as a graduate student are already razor thin, and that the sacrifices students already make are commonly taken for granted. At what point does graduate school no longer become an option for the majority of the small minority willing to do it under the current system (especially in STEM fields were jobs [and financial stability] are bountiful on the other side)?
Do not get me wrong, I enjoy being a graduate student and wholeheartedly see the benefits that my research (and others like it) bring to the world, but in a system were applicants are already limited can it sustain an even more pervasive financial barrier to entry? I think not. As a son of a single mother who regularly worries about the financially stability of my own and family’s life, not being able to afford attending graduate school is a serious concern.
How many qualified individuals will this bill (if passed) prevent from contributing to meaningful research and education? What are the overarching impacts on brain drain and creating an education system that no longer welcomes the highest level of academic excellence? Are the benefits of (what I imagine are minuscule) the increased tax revenue worth the potential loss of highly educated workers?
I do not have tangible answers, but I anticipate them to be negative with far reaching implications. There may be benefits of some educational tax changes, but I personally do not feel like aggressively removing tax breaks for graduate students is one.