Currently passing through the U.S. Senate and House are two version of a tax reform bill with potentially major impact on higher education and graduate students in particular. The House version of the bill especially, were it to be passed, would cause severe tax hikes for approximately 150,000 graduate students nationwide.

The exact cause of this is the addition of tuition waivers to the taxable income of these students. Tuition waivers are commonly offered to graduate students who work for their school by either teaching or doing research while they complete their studies. These waivers being taxed could increase how much students have to pay by thousands of dollars annually.

In a time when we should be encouraging further education — and, in particular, boosting our competitive chances in STEM industries — gutting students’ ability to pursue that education is asinine. Consider the many people in college who have charted out and committed to specific career paths that require graduate education. Many of these students probably did so with the expectation that the tuition waivers would be their to support them. These legislative efforts leave students out to dry.

Were this bill to pass, research-heavy schools like UR would have to make serious efforts to protect their students from this legislation if they wanted to prevent their graduate student enrollment from dropping. About a quarter of graduate students nationwide depend on tuition waivers in order to afford their education, making the addition of them to taxable income a potentially devastating move to higher education.

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