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Tax Bill Message December 7, 2017

Graduate Students:

Over the past few weeks, many of you have shared your concerns about the pending federal tax bill.  Please know that we in the Graduate School share your concerns with the implications of the proposed tax reform legislation and that your graduate faculty have also reached out to me and to each other with the same concern about the impact of this bill on your financial status and graduate education more broadly.

Action Steps

Our action steps include encouraging both faculty and students to advocate with your representatives and senators for more favorable provisions and working with the University federal relations staff to provide information on the impact of this legislation on our institution and our students.  We continue to explore ways to maintain and increase financial support for graduate students.

I also remind you of the message Clint Saidy distributed for the Graduate Student Association:

The impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will be felt by universities and graduate students on many levels. Ultimately, we ask for your support for the continued improvement of the American higher education system. We encourage you to actively participate in the #ReworkTheReform campaign to continue highlighting the importance of graduate education by:

  • Calling upon members of the Congress to re-evaluate the consequences of these provisions and recognize the devastating impact this will have on higher education,
  • Publicly opposing these provisions of the bill that will negatively affect the entire higher education community,
  • Sharing how the reform will affect you as graduate student on social media using #ReworkTheReform, and
  • Signing the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students petition calling for congress to remove provisions increasing the tax burden on graduate students and other students of higher education from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Summary of impact

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article that details the two versions of the tax bill.  The Washington Post published this article that provides a broader perspective to some of the bill’s provisions.  As you know, there are substantive differences between the House and Senate versions that must be reconciled.  We are cautiously optimistic that the final bill will be closer to the Senate version that leaves graduate student tuition waivers untaxed.  The University is actively advocating for appropriate revisions and will continue to do so as long as is needed.  While the potential to tax tuition waivers as income probably has the most immediate impact on you as graduate students, the bill has multiple provisions that impact graduate education:

  • The House version taxes tuition waivers as income, impacting all students who have tuition waivers for a variety of reasons (e.g., graduate assistantships, fellowships and scholarships, employee assistance), and eliminates the deduction for interest on student loans and other education assistance plans.  Unless fixed in conference committee, these tax reform packages have the potential to hurt our students by making graduate school unaffordable—disrupting the research and discovery that drives our economy—and making repayment of student loans more difficult by eliminating the deduction for student loan interest.
  • Increasing standard deductions is in essence a policy experiment that puts organizations that depend on the generosity of our citizens at risk and could change the landscape of giving in our country. In college and universities, that change threatens student scholarships and faculty research support and we may not know the full impact until it is too late.