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.