As a current graduate student, I would like to bring attention to one of the more misguided features of the House Republican tax plan: the proposed tax on tuition scholarships for graduate students.
Currently, graduate students do not pay taxes on tuition waivers from universities. What we do pay annual taxes on is our modest teaching or research stipends. For me, this income amounts to $22,752 a year, or $1,896 per month. I pay my annual taxes, I teach classes for undergraduate students, and I pursue my own doctoral studies through coursework and research. While many of my peers save money and plan for their futures, I strive to remain out of debt and often live paycheck to paycheck.
If this proposed tuition tax passes, graduate students will be required to pay additional taxes on their waived tuition scholarships. At my own doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh, my tuition is $22,290 a year. Under the House tax plan, this waived tuition is considered additional “income,” and would likely be taxed at a rate of 12 percent. For me, that would mean an additional $2,674 in annual taxes.
This tax increase would make it almost impossible for many graduate students to live on their modest incomes. Hard-working and tax-paying scholars like myself will likely go into debt or quit doctoral programs to afford daily necessities. I am a native Wyomingite and was awarded a four-year Trustee’s Scholarship to the University of Wyoming, which included a full tuition waiver. I have directly benefited from tuition scholarships for my entire academic career, and these proposed taxes would impede dedicated scholars, such as myself, from pursuing the highest levels of research and education.
The proposed tuition tax would not only negatively affect graduate students, but it has the potential to destabilize higher education and world-class research across the entire American university system. I urge Sens. Enzi and Barrasso and Rep. Cheney to reconsider the proposed tax on tuition scholarships for graduate students. Consider how these changes will negatively affect the bright, young students and scholars of our great state of Wyoming.