Graduate students protest U.S. tax plan | December 4, 2017 Issue - Vol. 95 Issue 48 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 95 Issue 48 | p. 17 | News of The Week
Issue Date: December 4, 2017 | Web Date: November 30, 2017

Graduate students protest U.S. tax plan

Proposal to make tuition taxable could make students pay thousands more each year
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Legislation, graduate students, protest, tax reform
Graduate students protest proposed taxes on tuition at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 

Credit: Natalie Hudson-Smith
Students marching on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, campus. One holds a sign that says “Poor Pay High Tax=Death of Higher Ed.”

Graduate students protest proposed taxes on tuition at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 

Credit: Natalie Hudson-Smith

Thousands of U.S. graduate students walked away from their labs, teaching assignments, and classes on Nov. 29 to protest provisions in a Republican tax reform package that could force them to pay thousands of dollars in extra taxes.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, chemistry grad student Becky Rodriguez joined hundreds of other protesters braving –5.5 °C temperatures to show her outrage at the proposal.

“I know that if this were to pass, I would have to drop out of graduate school because I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Rodriguez says.

Currently, stipends that cover tuition are tax-free for graduate students. But that would change under the tax reform bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed in November. It could mean thousands of dollars in extra taxes for graduate students, most of whom make less than $30,000 a year.

The Senate version of the measure currently keeps tuition waivers for graduate students tax-free, but the bill is still under negotiation.

“That is part of the reason that we wanted to escalate to a larger action across the country,” says Jack Nicoludis, a chemistry graduate student who helped plan the action at Harvard University.

Nicoludis connected with other protesters nationwide through his graduate student union. He’s also been participating in phone banks to call legislators.

“We want to make sure that both the Senate and the House know that this would affect us horribly, not only individual grad students but the competitiveness of higher education in the U.S.,” he says.

Rodriguez is especially concerned that the additional taxes would disproportionately affect minorities and first-generation students like her, whose parents can’t help shoulder the extra financial burden.

“Going to grad school shouldn’t be a matter of wealth. It should be the ability to pursue science, the ability to pursue things you are passionate about,” she says. “I hope that people see this as a wake-up call.

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lana (December 1, 2017 9:32 AM)
The extremely regressive tax plan being pushed in Congress disproportionately strips tax responsibilities from companies and their executives that are ALREADY sitting on the largest cash stockpiles in history, already returning the largest proportion of profits to stockholders, already paying the highest executive compensations, AND 65% of CEOs said they would either bank all the proposed tax cuts or increase dividends; only 35% said they would spend ANY portion to grow their operations and NONE said they would increase wages. Since these same tax revenues largely pay for the federal support for research, science, and higher ed this tax proposal, coupled with budget cuts to NSF, federal science agencies, Dept. of Ed, the combined effect would be both cutting higher ed and the sciences while simultaneously taxing and penalizing the poorest people involved in education FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT in sciences and higher education. as a certain someone would say...DUMB DUMB DUMB
Viya (December 2, 2017 7:00 PM)
I totally agree it is not correct to tax graduate who are pursuing higher studies and not for money but for the good of all. Please don't tax these students who are working so much to do new discoveries. The hike in tax cannot be afforded.
me (December 4, 2017 12:22 PM)
Why can't the universities just not charge the "tuition" that they wave now? The students never see any of that money anyways, and it is never really changing hands.

What's the background on why grad school operates in that way, anyways? Is it some accounting trick? Is it in order to justify yearly budget requests? Anyone here know the history?

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