Voter skepticism about tax reform has ominous ring for Republicans

In solidarity with graduate students across the country organizing similar demonstrations, close to 100 graduate students gathered outside of University Hall to protest the proposed GOP tax bill, which would increase income tax on graduate student stipends and tuition waivers, effectively cutting their incomes in half.

UO graduate students said they are protesting the House of Representatives' proposal to eliminate a long-standing tax exemption for tuition waivers.

President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli released a statement on November 9 calling the tax plan "regressive" and asked students to express their opinions on social media and to elected officials in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Students are not the only ones upset over the House tax bill.

"We're confident if it's not completely preserved, there will be some sort of compromise to where graduate students or other university workers are not footing all of the bill", Davis spokeswoman Ashley Phelps said. "People would have to leave grad school if nothing is done about it", said Maisson.

At the University of Maryland, students said they felt like the tax plan treats them like trash, and they wore garbage bags to a rally.

On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee pushed through a tax-cut bill on a 12-11 party-line vote.

Wallace said her taxes would likely increase marginally but her income is already limited as a graduate student. "We unequivocally back continued investment in American education as a highly-educated and highly-skilled workforce is critical for a better future for our country and for the world". Then, we extrapolated these analyses for family structures typical of graduate students, using relevant historical and proposed tax structures. The language in the House tax bill dictates that these tuition waivers would be taxable, counting the assistance as income.

Graduate tax hike protest at UC Berkeley on Nov. 29 2017
Graduate tax hike protest at UC Berkeley on Nov. 29 2017

The University also needs to address the conditions that "make [graduate students] so vulnerable to attacks like this", Gambino said.

While this tax plan will not affect all students in the University, it is believed that this bill will more adversely impact students at private institutions as opposed to public ones. "We stand in solidarity with students as we work together to advocate for fair tax policies and to advance our shared mission of supporting higher education".

Many grad students teach classes, and conduct research. Today, CU Board of Regents Chair Sue Sharkey and Regent Jack Kroll were on Capitol Hill to lobby members about the impacts the tax code rewrite will have on students and the University of Colorado. These assistantships come with a tuition stipend that is not taxable, but with the new GOP tax plan, the waivers would be taxed as regular income.

Most graduate students we've talked to are aware of the situation.

Further, many campus workers would also experience tax hikes over the next decade. Numerous students brought research and grading to do in public to demonstrate their daily role at the university, Charles said. At the current lowest tax rate, that means one will pay an additional $250 in taxes.

Grads United Organizer Elena Gambino said the University has encouraged students to contact local lawmakers but added campus officials still need to "ramp up that pressure".

"The university gives me a modest stipend to live on and that pays my rent and it pays my bills and that just about takes care of it", said Giese, who is working on a master's in public administration.

The pupils have said that it is not possible for them to continue their studies with such high dues that are being charged by the university. To this end, I want to assure IU faculty, graduate students, staff, and other members of the IU community that our government relations team is working tirelessly here in IN and in Washington to help our representatives understand the implications of this legislation. Students' loan interest deduction is also at risk for repeal.

  • Anthony Vega