"I Would Have To Drop Out": Students' Thoughts On The GOP Tax Bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Listening to House Speaker Paul Ryan discuss the Republicans' fast-moving tax proposal would give the impression that Americans are in for a golden age of prosperity. "Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, to restore opportunity and help those middle income families who are struggling," he said, after the bill was passed by the House earlier this month.
But as the bill, which is expected to be voted on this week in the Senate, is further dissected, the deep impact on middle-class and low-income families and individuals becomes clearer.
Another group that would take a major hit? Graduate students. Doctoral students across the country have staged walk-outs and protests in light of the House provision that would tax their graduate tuition.
Vetri Velan, a Ph.D. student in physics at UC Berkeley, and student-colleague Kathy Shield created a calculator to determine how much their and other grad students' tax bills might increase. Using the calculator, the LA Times found that "if Berkeley’s $13,793 annual tuition benefit became taxable, the university’s graduate students’ taxes would rise by 61%, or about $1,400, for a campus teaching assistant, and 31%, or about $1,100, for a research assistant. At MIT, a private institution that charges about $49,600 in annual tuition, taxes would more than triple to $13,577."
That's an impossible amount for most grad students, many of whom are already trapped in a limbo of not-quite-employees, but not-quite-students, and are pursuing efforts to unionize and increase their compensation.
Here is what current, former, and prospective graduate students told Refinery29 about the proposed tax bill and what that tax would look like for their financial situations.
These interviews have been edited and condensed for concision and clarity.