I’m writing in concern of a little-publicized aspect of the GOP Tax Cuts and Job Act currently being discussed in Congress. Alarmingly the bill eliminates section 117(d) from the IRS. This should be of concern to everyone who has a student in college who may be considering additional education as a graduate student. Section 117(d) exempts tuition waivers from taxable income. At many schools waivers exceed stipends, and lifting the exemption has the potential to push graduate students into higher tax brackets. Taxing these waivers puts an undue burden on graduate students, as the students never actually see these funds and money never enters their bank accounts. Additionally the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the Student Loan Interest Deduction from the IRS code. Graduate students make up 14% of the student population in the US, but carry 40% of the debt load. Not enough bad news for those wanting higher education? Add in the proposed elimination of tuition waivers for not only graduate students, but children of professors at universities tax-free; the Lifetime Learning Credit; the American Opportunity Tax Credit; the FICA tax credit; and Section 127, which provides employer education assistance credits.
Removing the tax credits vastly increases the financial burden for graduate students at a time when so many jobs in our country require specialized training provided by these university programs. Removing the tax credits stifles the ability of those students with limited means being able to pursue advanced degrees, leaving higher education to those with the money to absorb these costs.
I encourage you to contact our representatives in Congress to actually consider the ramifications of the tax bill being proposed. Our members tout their fiscal responsibilities, yet support a bill adding trillions to the national debt while adding tax burdens to many, including students who hope to be tomorrow’s future