In a bill full of boondoggles to the 1%, few other amendments are as egregious as the graduate student tax. The aforementioned tax has been championed as a way to increase tax revenue in the wake of mounting special interest pressure to remove the estate tax. Thus, it is simply a shifting of the fiscal burden onto hard-working, less privileged citizens in order for the Trumps and Kochs to pass on dynastic wealth, much of which has never been taxed (ex: unrealized capital gains).
Whenever a tax overhaul is being considered, it goes without saying that there will be winners and losers. However, this bill makes plain that the Republicans are more focused on how their donors fare than on the future of this country. In order to offset some of the over $1 trillion that the GOP tax bill will cost, they are considering taxing tuition fee waivers, which would amount to a projected $10 billion in revenue. The future of our country’s brightest young minds is being forfeited in order to give Ivanka and Don Jr. an incredibly vast inheritance simply for being born.
So just how bad is the grad student tax? In short, it will be devastating. For example, a student attending a graduate program with a “list price” of $50,000 who receives a tuition fee waiver, as well as a $20,000 stipend, is currently only responsible for paying taxes on $20,000. Now, despite never seeing that $50,000, said student will be required to pay taxes on $70,000. Their tax responsibility has more than tripled, though their lifestyle and actual income has not.
The passage of this tax will irreversibly affect higher learning for the foreseeable future. Citizens whose only access to upward economic mobility is through education will have to weigh taking on mountains of debt through student loans with the very real possibility of going into debt through owed taxes to Uncle Sam. The Republicans are putting America’s students between a rock and a hard place.
This is not only wrong, but also counter to American ideals. Meritocracy is the reigning philosophy of the land, and the grad student tax would punish those who have worked hard throughout their academic career to be granted a tuition fee waiver at the graduate school level. The Republican party simply does not want people who come from families without enough wealth to pay for their education to get ahead. This is just part of their winner-take-all philosophy, that all benefits should flow to those who are already rich.
It is no coincidence that the graduate student tax will effectively price out the less fortunate from obtaining graduate and professional degrees. The Republicans have shown, through this bill and through legislation predating this administration, that they do not want to increase opportunity. Instead, their main concern is lining their donors’ pockets, even if it is to the detriment of young scholars across the country, in blue and red districts.