Decrying Graduate Students’ Tuition Assistance Classified as Taxable Incomeby Representative Gwen Moore
Posted on 2017-11-30
MOORE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to decry a provision in this tax
bill that would amount to shocking tax increases of thousands of
dollars for struggling graduate students by reclassifying their tuition
assistance as taxable income.
These students provide research and teaching services as work to offset tuition. I mean, we are talking about assistants in the dorms, teaching assistants for undergraduate courses, researchers in laboratories--all who contribute to universities for quite modest stipends and tuition credits to avoid going further into debt and to support themselves while completing their master's degrees and Ph.D.'s.
Taxing this so-called income would impose a profoundly negative impact on education. Schools across the country could lose half their current graduate students, and it would diminish the number of students who would even consider graduate school in the future.
Mr. Speaker, what is to become of the vital research and development in the fields of medicine and engineering and agriculture and information technology--things that have led to innovation and invention, things that have truly made America great--with this tax provision? An example from my very own alma mater, Marquette University, raises the problems with parents. There is a maintenance mechanic who has three--three, triplets--college-age students. He receives $40,000 of tuition assistance for each of these students. I mean, for real, Mr. Speaker, we are going to deem $120,000 income to this maintenance person? Be for real. My constituent, Tim, writes: As a graduate student in the third year of a Ph.D. program, I am married, have a 4-month-old. My wife works full time as a high school teacher. My research focuses on investigating how persons who have suffered from a neurological disease such as a stroke or spinal cord injury are able to move. This tuition waiver is the only reason I can afford graduate school and do the research I am doing to help the disabled.
If this becomes taxable income, my wife and I would move into a higher tax bracket, and my tax liability would increase roughly 40 percent, without a single dime of an increase in income with which I could pay that. This equals roughly $1,300 per month of taxes.
At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, also in my district, graduate student Shandra is finishing her master's in library and information science. Under the Republican House bill, Shandra's income, in the eyes of the government, would effectively double.
Now, you know, doubling the standard deduction, letting people file on a postcard will not offset the draconian tax cuts that these graduate students would experience. Taxing tuition credits would hurt lower and middle class, hardworking citizens who rely on this benefit to help them and their families achieve the American Dream.
I urge my colleagues and people in the public, Mr. Speaker, not to fall for this trick, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to oppose this harmful bill.