When the announcement came that the House of Representatives version of the Republican Party’s tax bill would take aim at Graduate Student Tuition Waivers and Tax exceptions for student loan interest, professional organizations across the academy responded. On November 15th, 44 organizations from scientific communities, including Social Science and STEM organizations, wrote a letter to the United States Congress (see below).
When the vote passed the House, and a new Senate version of the bill was proposed, these two provisions impacting graduate students were removed. Still, according to Inside Higher Ed, the Senate version of the Republican Party tax bill would continue to have a negative impact on higher education, particularly research institutions with large endowments. In anticipation of the Senate vote, and to ward off provisions of the House bill that might be added by amendment, 41 organizations affiliation with the Social Sciences and the Humanities on November 28.
On the 29th, graduate assistants across the country, at more than 60 locations walked out, as part of a coordinate effort to oppose the provisions of the Republican Party tax bills.
As debate continued, a proposal in the Washington Post argued for removal of charges of graduate tuition altogether in response to the Republican Party House of Representatives version of the tax bill. While reviews on the proposal are mixed, at least some view the response, putting the pressure on institutions themselves, as victim blaming.
Regardless of positions and proposals in response, faculty, staff and students seem united around one clear issue: the House of Representatives version of the tax bill is worse than the Senate version, but the Senate version still has damaging provisions. For example, even the Senate version risks an increase of $1.4 trillion dollars in the deficit according to Congressional Budgetary Office analysis. The difference would then likely be mounted as an argument to cut benefits programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As the tax bill moves to joint congressional committee, the question will be “How bad is bad? And why?”
Opposition to provisions in the legislation can still make themselves heard in committee, before the house vote, before the final vote, and before the stage where, theoretically, the president could sign the bill into law, or veto it. The legislation still has a long way to go, and opposition to it has been mounting.