Graduate students all over the country and right here at UL Lafayette are keeping a close eye congress. If a measure in the house’s version makes it to the president’s desk it could make graduate school unaffordable for tens of thousands of students.
The GOP tax plan would affect about 40 percent of graduate students at UL. “For me, it almost doubles my take home pay,” said Scott Jones, PhD Candidate. Jones is a husband and father of two. His family lives off of money received from his teaching assistant stipend and a part-time job. “Instead of $25,000 being my income. It would be $45,000 or $55,000 which would push me up a tax bracket,” said Jones.
Currently, many grad students teach courses in exchange for having the cost of their tuition waived. Under the GOP tax plan that tuition would be counted as income.”It’s almost two months worth of stipends in taxes if you count four and a half months in a semester so that is an incredible amount. That’s going to affect my livelihood,” said Sabrina Tabassum-Tackett, Graduate Student.
At UL, some grad students receive between $10,000 and $15,000 s a year. This is the amount these many of these graduates live off of. “Right now, I’m doing a masters and I’m in talks of trying to get into a PhD program at UL, but if this thing goes through I won’t be able to do that,” said Tabassum-Tackett.
The cost of their waived tuition is often many thousands of dollars more than the money they earn teaching. (shelcie menard, “You’re thinking they don’t have to pay for this so they’re getting that money, but we never actually see the money. It’s like this is what your bill would be if you’re paying it, but now it’s waived,” said Shelcie Menard, PhD Candidate.
For example, under the tax plan a grad student who earns $20,000 a year teaching classes and has $30,000 in tuition and fees waived in exchange would be earning $50,000 a year in the eyes of the IRS. As a result, that grad student’s federal tax burden would skyrocket. (super: dr. mary farmer-kaiser, dean of ul graduate school) “The taxation of tuition waivers has the potential to really change the very make-up of our universities,” said Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser, Dean of UL Graduate School.
This provision will not be included in the senate’s tax plan that’s being debated now. Once their tax plan is voted on, the house and senate versions will have to be reconciled into one bill.