CU Grad Students Ask Why GOP Wants To Screw Them Over


As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Elizabeth Hernandez reports–yesterday on the campus of the University of Colorado, graduate students turned out to protest the Republican tax legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. The version passed by the House includes a head-scratching provision that requires grad students who work at teaching or on research projects to offset tuition costs to declare money they never actually see as taxable income:

About 100 University of Colorado graduate students and supporters packed the University Memorial Center fountain area Wednesday morning to protest the proposed Republican tax plan that would dramatically increase taxes for many students around the nation.

Hasti Rahemi, a Ph.D. student in CU’s Leeds School of Business, was among the crowd lamenting whether she’d even be able to finish her studies if the plan passed…

Depending on a graduate student’s appointment and whether he or she qualifies for in-state or out-of-state tuition, CU graduate student advocacy group Committee on Rights and Compensation estimated impacted students would see their taxes increase between 194 percent and 2,329 percent under the GOP tax plan. [Pols emphasis]

The high cost of graduate school credit hours has long been offset by students teaching and doing other qualified work for the institution to reduce their tuition and fees. To count that as taxable income would subject students to massive tax increases on “income” that isn’t income at all. We haven’t seen an estimate for how much this change would raise in revenue, but the damage it could do to postgraduate education in the country is really quite sobering. It’s worth noting that an equivalent provision does not exist in the Senate version of the bill under debate as of this writing; we’ll have to see if it’s inserted as an amendment or perhaps during the conference committee between the House and Senate to hammer out a final version of the bill.

As the overall cost of higher education has ballooned in recent years, it’s become a common theme from conservative politicians to disparage the need for advanced degrees outside of economically vital specialties, medicine, the legal profession, and (of course) the master’s degree in business administration. But we’ve perhaps never seen that rhetorical contempt for higher education put into policy more than the House tax “reform” bill–which every Republican House member from Colorado voted for.

The far-reaching implications of this one provision in such a massive overhaul of the tax code should be enough to give anybody pause. Like eliminating the adoption tax credit or sneaking “Personhood” in with college tuition savings plans, there appear to be nasty culture war ulterior motives under the hood of this whole effort.

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    "Only commies and lesbians get master's degrees." -Moderanus

  2. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    "Fifty-eight percent [58%] of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country"


  3. ZappateroZappatero says:

    I hope those intelligent students also ask our Dear Senator-for-Life why he promotes Republican rhetoric to address our national fiscal policies:

    Michael believes we need to work together and start making the tough decisions necessary to put our nation's fiscal house in order.

    Putting the country on a sustainable, long-term fiscal path and bringing our debt under control is incredibly important to our economy and our standing in the world.

    Learned economists will tell you debts and deficits are almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things: when interest is low and capital is ubiquitous they should be used to pump up the economy (not just profits and gains*) and invest in our future, and that Republicans only seem to hold to their deficit hawkishness when Democrats are in charge.

    * – it should be obvious to everyone by now that Republicans intend to do neither and their main goal in any economic policy is to continue filtering money up to the richest Americans.

    • unnamed says:

      Yes Ahab!   And that's why, instead of Bennet, we should have ANOTHER Republican Senator who will definitely vote yes in the tax bill instead of actively slamming it.   Man, you are so painfully one-note.

      • ParkHill says:

        I agree with this argument of Zappy's.

        Bennet should not use Republican rhetoric about the deficit.

        As to whether Bennet should go… we can cross that bridge after the Democrats regain the majority.

        • unnamed says:

          Maybe.  But trying to inject his hatred for all things Bennet when he has clearly been on our side of this argument just because is tiresome.

        • Gray in Mountains says:

          The tough decision that would be really meaningful without harming middle class and seniors and hugely reduce deficit would cut military spending. Any cut there would last half a generation at least.

          Unfortunately, we're likely to use a large chunk of our nuclear inventory next week. Right during busy shopping season. Come on consumer, you won't have to pay it back.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        I remember Ahab in here last November doing his little happy dance as Evan Bayh and a couple of other less-than-purely-leftist Democrats went down to defeat. 

        Does anyone know where we would be today if they hadn't lost? With Majority Leader Schumer and Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders putting together a very different tax bill in the Senate.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      But right now, Obama – era Republican 1.0 (Reduce the deficit! We're burdening our grandchildren!) is  not in accord with Republican 2.0 (Expand the deficit! Your grandchildren can suck it up! Our donors insist!)

      My point is that Michael Bennet can now safely espouse deficit reduction. It's the Democratic thing to do.

  4. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Of all the vile things done by the Trump administration, the war on higher education is the most odious.

    • DavieDavie says:

      A cowering, financially insecure, ignorant and politically pliant populace is exactly what would-be tyrants and dictators look for in developing their long-term policies and legislation.  Republicans control all the branches of government and so are shooting for the moon while they can.

    • unnamed says:

      Which just underscores something a wise man once said: Trump stinks.

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      It's really hard to pick just one. The Neo-Nazis and Antifa moral equivalency business is also up there. And trashing Gold Star families also is up there. And the self-enrichment and self-dealing is pretty bad too.

  5. JohnInDenver says:

    I like to think one step beyond.

    If the tax plan kicks up the tax for graduate students, it is a pretty short hop to see that there will be fewer graduate students working for their tuition waiver.

    What will Universities need to do to fill those slots? As a teaching assistant at a state university long ago, I taught two semesters of two sections of a course with 24 students in each. My tuition waiver and stipend was approximately $7,500. Round it (I wasn't studying math), and each student paid approximately $75 for that instruction. If I hadn't been there, the University would have needed to hire half an instructor (then about $15,000) or assistant professor (then about $20,000) for the slots. So, every class which would have had a graduate student leading it (about a third of the courses in many degrees at that time) would now cost $150 to $200 for instruction.

    Double (or more) the tuition for the one-third of courses. Add on the higher costs for graduate students in student services replaced by full time employees. And tuition will need to rise. How many undergraduates (and their parents) will be able to absorb tuition going up another 40% at state universities?

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