#GradTaxWalkout: Students Nationwide Denounce Tax Proposal's Assault on Higher Ed

Graduate students on over 50 campuses nationwide staged walkouts on Wednesday to protest provisions in the GOP tax proposal they say amount to an assault on higher education.

“Tax reform should not be borne on the backs of our hardworking graduate students,” stated University of California President Janet Napolitano, Student Regent Paul Monge, and Student Regent-designate Devon Graves. “They are our nation’s future and deserve congressional support—not a tax hike,” they said this week.

At UCLA some of the protestors held signs reading, “Why not tax the rich?” 

A focal point of the protests is a part of the already-passed House plan that would significantly increase students’ tax burden by taxing tuition waivers or reductions as taxable income.

“This would be devastating, my taxable income would more than double,” said Hannah Khoddam, a PhD candidate in clinical science at the University of Southern California. “This exemption enables graduate students to afford to pursue a PhD while providing high-quality education and research.”

Tamar Oostrom, who’s in her third year towards getting her PhD in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “This bill would increase our tax by 300 or 400 percent. I think it’s absolutely crazy,”


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A letter (pdf) sent to House Republicans earlier this month by dozens of education groups noted the multiple attacks on education embedded in the proposal including the repeal of the Student Loan Interest Deduction and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Adding it all up, they said the “bill heads in the wrong direction.”

The actions are being supported (pdf) by the March for Science, which warned lawmakers in a letter, “​This​ ​bill​ ​will​ ​have​ ​a​ ​particularly​ ​significant​ ​impact​ ​on​ ​individuals​ ​from marginalized​ ​communities,​ ​already​ ​underrepresented​ ​in​ ​the​ ​scientific​ ​field.​ ​​ ​It​ ​risks​ ​sending us​ ​back​ ​to​ ​an​ ​academic​ ​era​ ​in​ ​which​ ​only​ ​the​ ​independently​ ​wealthy​ ​are​ ​able​ ​to​ ​pursue advanced​ ​degrees.”

Gary S. May, chancellor of UC Davis, offered his “wholehearted support” for the #GradTaxWalkout action, writing at the Sacramento Bee, “The House bill is an attack on higher education in the name of reform.”

And as Jacob Carter, a research scientist for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, warned recently, “it isn’t just graduate students who will feel the consequences; such moves stand to affect us all.”

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