House tax plan would affect MSU grad students
The House introduced a new tax plan that will affect graduate students in universities across the country.
Many graduate students who are employed at the university as teaching or research assistants receive tuition waivers in return for their work. If the bill is passed, those tuition waivers will be counted as taxable income. President of Graduate Employees Union Sara Bijani said that the average graduate assistant at MSU makes $15,000 a year before taxes. Though the actual amount students pay differs depending on family size, the average income after taxes is around $12,000 to $13,000 a year.
“If this were to pass, the average grad student at MSU will be left with $10,000 or less to live on, which is not doable,” Bijani said.
She believes that the provisions under the proposed tax plan are harmful and will put graduate education out of reach for the average working-class American.
“They're not just harmful to grad students, they’re harmful to undergrads, they’re harmful to anyone who wants to work in industry,” Bijani said. “When you cut out research, when you cut out people having access to graduate education, you’re also are cutting out the foundation of most advanced industries in the country.”
Dean of the Graduate School Thomas Jeitschko released a statement in opposition to the proposed tax changes and claims they will negatively affect both graduate students at MSU and the university as a whole.
“I recognize that most graduate students are already living on a very tight budget, so the thought of potentially adding thousands of dollars in new taxes to your budget is hard to contemplate and would create a tremendous immediate hardship and have further adverse implications for us in years to come,” Jeitschko wrote in his statement.
At the final ASMSU meeting of 2017, a bill was passed that stands against against the part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that introduces the grad tax. Also at the meeting, Trustee Dianne Byrum spoke and answered questions students had regarding the university’s stance on the tax.
“We as members of the higher education community collectively have opposed that,” Byrum said. “We have, through our Government Affairs team, lobbied very strongly in opposition to that. If it passes, then we have to administer the law but we don’t support it and we’ve done everything in our power to express our concerns and lobby against it.”
The Graduate Employees Union and Council of Graduate Students held a rally in late November where Jeitschko spoke and the university currently has representatives in Washington, D.C. lobbying for the interests of the higher education community. But Bijani believes that there should be more discussion on the issue.
“The university really should be speaking up more about it,” Bijani said. “The university community, professors, graduate students, undergraduates—there are so many pieces of this tax bill that directly attack the future of higher education in the country. This is a simple thing for the university community to unite around.”