I’m disquieted as I read current graduate students’ accounts of how the House of Representative’s recently passed tax reform bill would hinder or prevent them from continuing their graduate education.
The bill proposes taxing waivers of graduate student tuition as personal income. Taxing these waivers, which students never directly receive, would be an untenable financial burden. A science graduate student typically receives a modest stipend (averaging $30,000) for support as, in addition to their own coursework, they devote long hours to research and teaching.
If also taxed for a $50,000 tuition waiver, the student would owe over $11,000 in taxes — 37 percent of their living stipend. Only the wealthy, or those daring to assume a risky and oppressive debt burden, would be able to pursue graduate studies.
I just wrote recommendations for a bright, motivated cohort of graduate school aspirants; most already carry debt from their undergraduate studies. To reach their full potential as our future innovators, scholars, teachers and leaders, they need access to graduate education. We as a nation are diminished if they are denied this training.
I urge representatives and senators to reject the proposed taxation of tuition waivers, as well as to preserve individual deductions for college tuition, interest on educational loans and other educational expenses.
Hard-working students, whose well-developed talents we need now more than ever, are counting on you.
Monica Raveret Richter
The writer is an associate professor of Biology at Skidmore College.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion