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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-Ed: Proposed GOP tax plan hurts current and future grad students


The recently passed GOP House tax plan is a massive giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of working people. 

For graduate student workers already earning less than a living wage, the poorly named “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” turns tuition waivers into taxable income. 

The bill also eliminates tax credits for student loan interest payments and taxes tuition reductions available to many campus employees and their families. 

Tuition waivers are fundamental to the structure of many graduate programs, and graduate students never see the money that transfers hands through these waivers. 

Rather, the waivers exist to allow graduate student workers to make a living with their stipends, which are already subject to taxation.  

Many UNC Chapel Hill graduate student workers earn the minimum stipend, $15,700 over 9 months. 

Minimum full-time annual tuition for the Department of Computer Science is $9,943 for in-state students. 

If tuition becomes taxable, the life of a graduate student becomes unaffordable. 

Under the proposed new tax brackets, this provision alone would force non-resident graduate students to pay up to 30 percent of their income in federal taxes. 

Further, many campus workers would also experience tax hikes over the next decade. 

Those earning under $30,000 per year would see tax increases by 2021 according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

The GOP tax plan further enriches the wealthy at the expense of working people and higher education. 

It disincentivizes the enrollment of graduate students, who perform much of the teaching labor on campus, and it therefore endangers the university’s ability to function. 

It threatens UNC research programs and burdens campus workers. Such a proposal is antithetical to UNC’s mission as a public university in service to the people and as a provider of equal opportunity. 

We urge the university community to defend its graduate and campus workers by calling on their representatives to oppose this tax proposal as it enters Senate review. 

University administrations across the country have made statements opposing this bill while ours remains silent. 

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC): (202) 224-3154

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC): (202) 224-6342

Note: Republican Senate leaders hope to bring the proposed tax plan to the Senate floor for a vote by Friday.

UNC Workers’ Union

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