Congress Has Put Grad Students in Jeopardy


The AAUP and a large coalition of other higher education groups have issued an open letter calling on legislators to protect the graduate student tuition waiver and the students it benefits.  The AAUP previously called on its members and those who support higher education to “Vote No on the Tax Bill” by signing a petition to fifteen key Republican representatives opposing the provision. The following is the full text of the open letter:

To​ ​the​ ​elected​ ​Representatives​ ​of​ ​Congress,

We​ ​are​ ​writing​ ​today​ ​to​ ​express​ ​our​ ​concerns​ ​about​ ​provisions​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Tax​ ​Cut​ ​and​ ​Jobs​ ​Act that​ ​threaten​ ​the​ ​future​ ​of​ ​scientific​ ​research​ ​in​ ​our​ ​country.​ ​We​ ​stand​ ​together​ ​as​ ​a​ ​diverse, interdisciplinary​ ​coalition​ ​to​ ​ask​ ​you​ ​to​ ​protect​ ​the​ ​graduate​ ​student​ ​tuition​ ​waiver​ ​and​ ​the students​ ​it​ ​benefits.

Last​ ​week,​ ​the​ ​House​ ​of​ ​Representatives​ ​passed​ ​the​ ​Tax​ ​Cuts​ ​and​ ​Jobs​ ​Act​ ​(H.R.​ ​1), repealing​ ​a​ ​key​ ​provision​ ​that,​ ​if​ ​signed​ ​into​ ​law,​ ​will​ ​have​ ​consequences​ ​for​ ​graduate students​ ​across​ ​the​ ​nation.​ ​​ ​In​ ​reclassifying​ ​graduate​ ​school​ ​tuition​ ​waivers​ ​as​ ​taxable income,​ ​Congress​ ​has​ ​placed​ ​graduate​ ​students​ ​in​ ​financial​ ​jeopardy,​ ​threatening​ ​long-term negative​ ​effects​ ​on​ ​our​ ​country’s​ ​scientific​ ​enterprise.​ ​According​ ​to​ ​the​ ​​US​ ​Department​ ​of Education​’s​ ​most​ ​recent​ ​data,​ ​145,000​ ​graduate​ ​students​ ​receive​ ​this​ ​tax​ ​waiver​ ​annually, 70​ ​percent​​ ​of​ ​whom​ ​are​ ​enrolled​ ​in​ ​programs​ ​in​ ​the​ ​natural,​ ​applied,​ ​and​ ​social​ ​sciences; technology;​ ​engineering;​ ​or​ ​mathematics.​ ​The​ ​repeal​ ​of​ ​section​ ​117(d)(5)​ ​of​ ​the​ ​existing​ ​tax code​ ​will​ ​have​ ​far-reaching​ ​consequences​ ​on​ ​scientific​ ​research.

Graduate​ ​students​ ​are​ ​not​ ​only​ ​future​ ​innovators:​ ​their​ ​work​ ​is​ ​vital​ ​in​ ​driving​ ​current scientific​ ​knowledge​ ​at​ ​research​ ​universities​ ​and​ ​institutions​ ​around​ ​the​ ​country.​ ​Their experiments,​ ​research​ ​papers,​ ​and​ ​lab​ ​and​ ​field​ ​activities​ ​help​ ​move​ ​scientific​ ​knowledge forward,​ ​boost​ ​the​ ​economy,​ ​and​ ​provide​ ​the​ ​scientific​ ​backbone​ ​behind​ ​research​ ​that protects​ ​our​ ​health,​ ​environment,​ ​and​ ​communities.​ ​Graduate​ ​students​ ​are​ ​also​ ​an​ ​essential teaching​ ​corps​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​college​ ​system.

Nearly​ ​​55​ ​percent​ ​​of​ ​all​ ​master’s​ ​and​ ​Ph.D.​ ​students​ ​have​ ​adjusted​ ​gross​ ​incomes​ ​of $20,000​ ​or​ ​less;​ ​87​ ​percent​ ​have​ ​incomes​ ​of​ ​$50,000​ ​or​ ​less.​ ​​ ​The​ ​tuition​ ​waiver​ ​granted​ ​by section​ ​117(d)(5)​ ​is​ ​not​ ​money​ ​that​ ​goes​ ​into​ ​students’​ ​pockets.​ ​​ ​By​ ​reclassifying​ ​these waivers​ ​as​ ​taxable​ ​income,​ ​the​ ​proposed​ ​tax​ ​plan​ ​will​ ​have​ ​students​ ​who​ ​make​ ​$20,000​ ​or $30,000​ ​a​ ​year​ ​paying​ ​taxes​ ​as​ ​if​ ​they​ ​earn​ ​tens​ ​of​ ​thousands​ ​more​ ​-​ ​in​ ​some​ ​cases, causing​ ​their​ ​tax​ ​bill​ ​to​ ​​increase​ ​by​ ​up​ ​to​ ​400%​​ ​and​ ​forcing​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​hardest​ ​workers​ ​in science​ ​to​ ​stop​ ​their​ ​training.​ ​​ ​Tuition​ ​waivers​ ​and​ ​stipends​ ​provide​ ​support​ ​for​ ​working class​ ​and​ ​low​ ​income​ ​students​ ​who​ ​might​ ​otherwise​ ​be​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​pursue​ ​advanced degrees.​​​ ​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.

Developing​ ​and​ ​implementing​ ​evidence-based​ ​policy​ ​and​ ​securing​ ​our​ ​country’s​ ​safety, health,​ ​and​ ​future​ ​requires​ ​research.​ ​Graduate​ ​students​ ​play​ ​a​ ​pivotal​ ​role​ ​in​ ​making​ ​that research​ ​a​ ​reality.​ ​​ ​We​ ​stand​ ​with​ ​graduate​ ​students​ ​in​ ​all​ ​disciplines​ ​across​ ​the​ ​country​ ​in calling​ ​for​ ​our​ ​representatives​ ​to​ ​support​ ​the​ ​graduate​ ​student​ ​tuition​ ​waiver.


American​ ​Anthropological​ ​Association
American​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​Geographers
American​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​University​ ​Professors
American​ ​Federation​ ​of​ ​Teachers,​ ​AFL-CIO
American​ ​Political​ ​Science​ ​Association
American​ ​Society​ ​for​ ​Cell​ ​Biology
Association​ ​for​ ​Psychological​ ​Science
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Association​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Advancement​ ​of​ ​Sustainability​ ​in​ ​Higher​ ​Education
Association​ ​for​ ​Science​ ​Teacher​ ​Education
Association​ ​for​ ​Sciences​ ​of​ ​Limnology​ ​and​ ​Oceonography
Center​ ​for​ ​Environmental​ ​Ethics​ ​and​ ​Law
The​ ​Clergy​ ​Letter​ ​Project
Entomological​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​America
Federation​ ​of​ ​Associations​ ​in​ ​Behavioral​ ​and​ ​Brain​ ​Sciences
Future​ ​of​ ​Research
Graduate​ ​Employee​ ​Union-UAW​ ​Local​ ​6950​ ​from​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Connecticut
Graduate​ ​Employees​ ​of​ ​Northeastern​ ​University—UAW​ ​(GENU-UAW)
Graduate​ ​Workers​ ​of​ ​Columbia—UAW​ ​(GWC-UAW)
Group​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Advancement​ ​of​ ​Doctoral​ ​Education​ ​in​ ​Social​ ​Work
Harvard​ ​Graduate​ ​Students​ ​Union—UAW​ ​(HGSU-UAW)
International​ ​Joint​ ​Policy​ ​Committee​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Societies​ ​of​ ​Epidemiology
Linguistic​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​America
Macaulay​ ​Honors​ ​College,​ ​City​ ​University​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York
March​ ​for​ ​Science
National​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​Graduate-Professional​ ​Students
New​ ​York​ ​Hall​ ​of​ ​Science
North​ ​American​ ​Vascular​ ​Biology​ ​Organization
OSA-The​ ​Optical​ ​Society
Social​ ​Psychology​ ​Network
Society​ ​for​ ​Advancement​ ​of​ ​Chicanos/Hispanics​ ​and​ ​Native​ ​Americans​ ​in​ ​Science​ ​(SACNAS)
Student​ ​Employees​ ​at​ ​The​ ​New​ ​School—UAW​ ​(SENS-UAW)
Temple​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​University​ ​Professionals​ ​(AFT​ ​#4531)
The​ ​Climate​ ​Museum
The​ ​Endocrine​ ​Society
The​ ​Paleontological​ ​Society
The​ ​Phycological​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​America
United​ ​University​ ​Professions​ ​(UUP)

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2 thoughts on “Congress Has Put Grad Students in Jeopardy

  1. Hi,
    Please explain why this letter so strongly emphasises science PhD students? Obviously the Humanities have far less funding and this will put those students in an even worse position. There is more animus toward the Humanities among politicians and it may appear politically expedient to stress STEM subjects (though I note that even medicine is omitted) and I expect some of the general organisations include Humanities. But as the next academe post says, solidarity – united we stand, divided we fall.
    Hera Cook

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