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OU voiced its concerns for graduate students and their overall impact if the Republican tax plan passes.

What the GOP’s tax reform bill means for graduate student education

The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students promoted a mass phone call event  Nov. 8 to call elected officials to oppose the new Republican tax reform bill. 

At its Tuesday meeting, Ohio University Graduate Student Senate passed a resolution that opposed the new GOP tax reform bill. Under the resolution, GSS members would distribute letters to administrators, advisers, legislators and other relevant members describing GSS’ opposition to that bill and asking that they “keep graduate students in mind” in their legislative and advocacy efforts.

“Under current tax law, graduate students who work for a university as research and teaching assistants do not have to consider any tuition benefits they receive as income,” Sarah Poggione, associate professor and chair for the department of political science, said in an email. “Under the new plan, these tuition benefits would be taxable income.”

GSS President Maria Modayil brought that issue to the attention of GSS executive members after attending a conference for the National Association for Graduate-Professional Students, Vice President for Legislative Affairs Zachary Watts said.

“We would be paying double taxes, basically, and that’s kind of why we’re calling,” Watts said. “We’re trying to make people understand that we don’t get paid a lot, so now you’re going to be asking us to pay the majority of our salaries in taxes.” 

Nationally, about 55 percent of graduate students had adjusted gross incomes of $20,000 or less. Master's students received waivers for about $11,000, and doctoral students received waivers for about $13,600, according to 2011-12 Department of Education data.

On Nov. 9, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, introduced an amendment to the tax plan that would “restore critical education reductions” the original plan would eliminate, according to Doggett’s website. The amendment was voted down. 

Since then, the National Association for Graduate-Professional Students has called on all who participated in the mass call event to tweet using the hashtag #ReworkTheReform at those who voted against the amendment. 

OU has been “very vocal” on how that tax bill can affect universities, Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer said.

“Through our government relations office we've (been) … kind of taking this tax bill and putting it into layman's terms on what it means for higher education and then the analysis of what that means for Ohio University specifically,” Shaffer said at GSS' meeting Tuesday. “We were asked to rank overall highest impact (of the tax bill), and we’ve ranked graduate students as the highest on the list.”

OU President Duane Nellis commented on what that tax bill means for graduate students in a tweet, stating that he “advocated that all Ohio universities send a letter to Congress expressing concerns.”

“We’re hoping that we can bring this to the attention of Congress if they weren’t aware of it,” Watts said. “Hopefully, we can persuade them that this language doesn’t need to be in this bill because it places an unfair burden on one of the lowest-paid groups in our country.” 


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