Here’s How the GOP Tax Bill Will Hurt Grad Students

Graduate students across the country walked out of their lectures and labs to protest the GOP tax plan, which could be disastrous for students and our higher education system.

The tax bill would eliminate tax credits commonly used by graduate and undergraduate students, but would hit grad students the hardest.

The way in which the tax plan specifically impacts grad students mainly has to do with the ways students are “paid” for their work at universities.

Many PhD students don’t take classes after their first few years and instead teach or work in a university lab. These students receive a stipend for their work. According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a graduate research assistant is less than $30,000. This income, of course, is taxed.

On top of paying these stipends, universities often waive tuition fees which average $16,000 per year, but can be much higher. Currently, this tuition waiver is not taxed as income. The GOP wants to change that and tax students on this waiver, which could make graduate programs unaffordable for many.

Students who are often barely scraping by would be taxed on an “income” they’re not actually taking home, and in some cases this could push them into the next tax bracket increasing their tax burden even further.

“There’s a misconception that grad school and academia in general is this sort of lofty enterprise,” Nat Baldino, a third-year PhD student told NPR. “We already don’t get paid a livable wage and as someone who is a first-generation college student, I already came into graduate school with tens of thousands of dollars of debt from undergrad.”

Like many graduate students, Baldino worries not only about how the tax bill will affect his education, but his ability just to pay the bills.

“If this bill were to pass … I don’t know how I would live,” Baldino said.

According to the most recent data by the Department of Education, as many as 145,000 grad students could be affected. About 60 percent of those students come from STEM fields, meaning the long-term effect on science and technology in the U.S. could be severe.

“Only rich people would be able to receive a graduate degree,” Kate Brown, a seventh-year PhD student, told NPR. “When you limit the people that can create knowledge, what you get is bad knowledge. The potential devastation from this is immense.”

Higher education is already unaffordable in the United States, but the GOP tax plan could make it impossible. When many other countries have free higher education, it’s hard to justify further taxing students but providing tax breaks for private jets.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

33 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R8 days ago

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 days ago

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Paulo R
Paulo R14 days ago

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Paulo R
Paulo R14 days ago

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Paulo R
Paulo R14 days ago

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Jim V
Jim V18 days ago

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Jim V
Jim V18 days ago

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Jerome S
Jerome S18 days ago

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Jerome S
Jerome S18 days ago

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Ann B
Ann B20 days ago

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