Students across the country have spoken out against the Republican tax bill that passed through the House shortly before Thanksgiving.
The bill, slightly different from the one which passed through the Senate more recently, includes a provision which could significantly affect students pursuing graduate study. Today, many graduate students do not have to pay tuition to attend their universities as schools have waived their tuition costs. Should the “grad tax” provision be included in the final version of the tax bill, however, these students’ tuition waivers would be treated as taxable income. This would mean that students who receive tuition breaks to attend graduate school could face new costs in the form of income taxes.
The Politic asked Yale graduate students to respond to this provision with their thoughts on how this would impact them or other students.
“As a woman in STEM and a first-generation college graduate with massive student loan debt, I will be forced leave graduate school immediately if the tax on tuition waivers and the elimination of student loan deductions appear in the final tax bill. Graduate students should continue to bombard their congresspeople with objections, but Yale also has a responsibility to take action. Other universities have reassured their graduate students protection from the tuition waiver tax. Yale should be a leader and reform its deceitful tuition system1 to recognize the value of graduate teachers. Failing to do so will eliminate those who are not socioeconomically privileged from higher education and contribute to the white-washing of academia.”
– Sarah Arveson, Geology and Geophysics
“As a graduate student from a working-class background, my tuition waiver makes it possible for me to get a PhD. If taxed, I will owe nearly $10,000 in taxes on $30,000 of income. This increases my tax liability over 300%. Many graduate students, including myself, may well require government benefits to survive. My significant student loan debt from prior degrees will also be more difficult to pay off under this plan. The proposal to eliminate the SALT deduction and the destabilization of the healthcare market makes this all the worse. Quite simply, this bill is a disaster for most Americans.”
– Margaret Traeger, MPH, Sociology
“As a first-generation college graduate, prior to embarking upon my academic career, I was totally unaware that I could pursue my passion for research while also being paid a stipend to support myself. I was elated to learn that my status as a student from an economically-disadvantaged background would not impede my desire to learn and teach about natural history. After graduating with a bachelors degree, I decided to attend Yale University for graduate school, rather than returning to the UK, as Yale’s stipend package offered greater financial security. The proposed changes to the tax system would make it difficult to sustain a living in New Haven, without taking on a second job and endangering my research and teaching commitments.”
– Jack Shaw, Geology and Geophysics
“I am a graduate student in the Computer Science Department at Yale University. Should the Student Loan Interest Deduction be repealed by the new tax bill, graduate school will cause me to go into debt as a result of my total projected 6-7 years of graduate study with one of the most generous stipends in the US. My husband and I are both graduate students at the same university, and we would significantly suffer if this deduction is repealed.”
– Sarah Sebo, Computer Science
“After my second application to Grad School was successful, I came to Yale in August 2017 to pursue my Ph.D. in sociology. It had been a dream of mine for several years, and now that it finally worked out, I immediately see my academic career threatened by the new tax bill. I am a first generation High School and College student from Germany, and taxing our tuition waiver would force me to immediately break off my studies and go back home since I would not be able to support myself under these circumstances.”
– Vanessa Bittner, Sociology
“[This tax] will discourage other students to come, diminish the reputation American universities have, and shrink the Ph.D. labor pool which could eventually cause Silicon Valley or other fields to move. For some of the other programs like humanities that have that tuition but their stipend is not good, they are completely screwed. It is definitely a hit for science, but more so the humanities Ph.D. students. Graduate students here are about one half international students and I’ve actually met quite a lot of students from the working class, which is great for diversity but that could be destroyed. The tax increase could make it inaccessible to students moving from overseas or students without a familial financial net. As PhDs don’t necessarily pay more, the incentive to take out loans is non-existent, hence loans won’t solve anything. Besides the short term strife and inconvenience to some students, this tax basically shrinks the talent pool available to Silicon Valley and academia etc., even government.”
– Clorice Reinhardt, Biophysics and Biochemistry
If you are a Yale graduate or professional student and would like to include your thoughts on the tax bill, please email a short reaction to firstname.lastname@example.org.