Hindering Higher Education

The proposed Republican tax bill threatens to tax graduate student tuition waivers as income.

The Republican-controlled Congress is on the verge of their first legislative victory since the presidential election: a complete overhaul of the tax system that will cut taxes by about $1.5 trillion. This tax plan will significantly impact the federal government and every individual American––helping some while harming others. Unfortunately, the tax plan poses devastating consequences for higher education.

Indeed, we have criticized the Republican tax plan for its proposed tax of university endowments, which would substantially harm Harvard and limit its ability to provide for its students. However, the plan has devastating implications for individual students at Harvard as well as at universities throughout the country. The version of the tax bill passed by the House of Representatives would significantly harm graduate students by treating their graduate tuition waivers as income, thus subjecting them to income tax; as such, up to 145,000 graduate students will be taxed on money that they never actually possess.

We are extremely disappointed with this provision of the House’s tax plan. This plan disproportionately harms graduate students across the country who contribute knowledge, teaching, and labor to our educational institutions. Not only do graduate students contribute to the advancement of education by teaching undergraduates and providing the bulk of the labor in labs, but they also contribute to the general productivity of society.

Higher education is one of the core elements of innovation; in today’s technical world, it takes years of training to advance to the cutting edge of current knowledge and generate new ideas. Graduate education is among the best ways to undertake this task. Furthermore, there is a growing demand for jobs that require higher education outside of the academic setting, and yet these jobs require graduate studies to be fostered within universities. In the long run, pushing students away from graduate school will hurt the nation itself most. Their contributions and the innovations fostered by higher education continue to push American industry and society for the better.

Moreover, this plan would decrease the accessibility to education for many potential students who cannot afford the additional tax hike, while further burdening the lives of current students. Seeing as graduate students already have a difficult time making ends meet, this legislation would make financing higher education prohibitively expensive for many. As students of underrepresented backgrounds already face a slew barriers along their path to higher education, this plan would make graduate schools significantly less diverse. A commitment to diversity is at the cornerstone of modern academia, and adding additional financial burdens to graduate students will only further undermine those ideals. It adds only insult to injury that this tax plan further perpetuates corporate welfare. We thus believe that this provision of the tax overhaul is shortsighted.

We urge Harvard to fight against these tax provisions with every ounce of strength it can muster. Between the tax on graduate students and the tax on large endowments, this legislation is a direct attack against higher education; as a leader of academia, it is Harvard’s responsibility to lead the way. Furthermore, it will be crucial for our incoming president to be a forceful advocate for universities. As such, the presidential search committee must choose a candidate who is committed to protecting Harvard’s resources for the sake of serving its students.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.


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