VIEWPOINT: Graduate Students Deserve a Seat at the Table

This image is for use with this specific article only.** Demonstrators protest against the Republican tax reform plan during a rally organized by Our Revolution and Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund on Capitol Hill in Washington DC November

This image is for use with this specific article only.** Demonstrators protest against the Republican tax reform plan during a rally organized by Our Revolution and Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund on Capitol Hill in Washington DC November

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.

"The House bill in its current form would have a substantial negative impact on livelihoods it threatens to increase our tax burden by nearly two hundred percent in some cases", said Chaz Lee, a graduate student and a member of Graduate Students United (GSU). I serve as a teaching assistant for a 400-student lecture course, which includes weekly recitation sessions that I and three other graduate students teach.

Noah Charles, a fourth-year Physics PhD student at The Ohio State University (OSU), formed Save Grad Ed after hearing about the proposed tax bill provisions earlier this month. "But we're going to leave a voicemail to tell them to vote no on the tax bill".

Section 1204 of the House GOP tax bill adds the value of tuition benefits to an educator's salary and other income, resulting in a larger number that could move them into a higher tax bracket.

Penn spokesman Rob Ozio said that the university is still continuing to lobby against the bill.

The Senate proposal would keep tuition waivers tax free, but the proposal to tax the waivers could reappear as Congress tries to reconcile plans from the two chambers. At MIT, a private institution that charges about $49,600 in annual tuition, taxes would more than triple to $13,577, said the analyst, Vetri Velan, a doctoral student in physics. "It's all handled by the university", Kelly explained.

According to the Council of Graduate Schools, a national organization of graduate school deans, approximately 145,000 graduate students depended on tuition waivers in 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available). They are also asking for the university to provide facilities such as transport and housing to students.

Jack M. Nicoludis, a graduate student and union organizer, said it was important for graduate students to advocate against the bill. On the contrary, the proposed Republican changes would restore much-needed transparency and address a system that benefits a higher-education complex at the expense of students and taxpayers.

The Senate plan now being debated doesn't include a similar provision, but whether or not the provision will be part of the final tax reform plan has yet to be decided. She is not paying taxes on that tuition credit, worth tens of thousands of dollars.

One of the demands of the students is to withdraw the 10 per cent hike in tuition fees. None of them relates to whether or not you itemize your deductions. In a letter to Warner, she said there were provisions in the proposed legislation that "would negatively impact our students and the institution itself, ultimately making college less affordable, discouraging participation in higher education and decreasing US competitiveness globally". It would require grad students to pay taxes on their tuition waivers. In exchange, the institution gives them a small stipend, often around $20,000 a year, and it also waives their tuition. Right now, low and middle-class Americans that have student loans can lower their taxable income by $2,500, allowing a maximum deduction of $625, though most deduct less. "Public policy should align and invest in our public goods". Rather than an attack on higher education, it is an attempt to correct inefficient and distortive measures long protected by an entrenched industry which benefits from them.

Neither provision is included in the Senate's tax plan, which is expected to be voted on this week. "I don't like the message that devalues the education of graduate students". The other was UI President Bruce Harreld, who briefly stood in the back of the crowd, and left without saying anything.

This is the particular provision we are most concerned about.

After the rally, Kelly said she didn't notice Harreld, and that the UI administration had not made any statements on the House tax bill.

"Only rich people would be able to receive a graduate degree", she said.

"Draconian and unexpected cuts" to research funding, including reductions of up to 90 per cent for many individuals funded by the National Research Foundation, had placed "huge pressure" on research-intensive universities, which may be forced to axe staff to balance their books, said Professor Hall.

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