The Republican “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” poses serious problems for graduate students and universities, including those here in Utah. The bill’s provision to tax tuition waivers as income will make it impractical for all but the wealthiest students to pursue advanced degrees.
Graduate students make invaluable contributions to the teaching and research missions of universities. Nevertheless, a typical graduate student at the University of Utah earns less than the living wage. Under the House bill, those students would pay taxes on tuition paid on their behalf, money that they never receive in the first place. This would result in a loss of over $2,000 in take-home pay.
Graduate students from working class backgrounds already fight an uphill battle to complete their degrees without accumulating debt. This change in the tax law would make that battle unwinnable.
It is puzzling to see the party demanding greater ideological diversity at universities moving to cut off non-elite students from academic professions. If the Senate Finance Committee (chaired by Orrin Hatch) allows the graduate student tax to become law, it is not only graduate students who would suffer. The undergraduates they teach and the research projects they advance would suffer as well.
Cindi Textor, Salt Lake City