Democrats Discuss: GOP tax bill attacks higher education

At 2 a.m. Saturday morning, the Senate passed its version of the tax reform bill. The 479-page bill was given to Senate Democrats only hours before the vote, despite requests by Democrats to postpone until Monday in order to read the lengthy legislation.  The request was denied by Republican leadership.

While there are many negative components to the Senate tax reform bill, such as adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, increasing taxes for much of the middle class in eight to ten years, and tax cuts for the top 1 percent, an important component for college students to discuss is how this new legislation will end up affecting undergraduate and graduate students.

The tax bill removes many benefits that enable students of disparate backgrounds to participate in graduate programs. In the new bill, tuition waivers that colleges grant to their students can now be taxed. Many graduate students work as teaching assistants and researchers for their university and in return, are paid for their work. Currently, tuition waivers are not counted as taxable income. But if this portion of the legislation remains after the House and Senate reconcile the differences between their two bills, that payments will be taxed, making it harder to afford graduate school.

There are about 5,000 graduate students that attend Ohio University, many of whom are employed by OU. All of them will be affected if this tax bill is put into place.

The House version of the bill also revokes the deduction of $2,500 for interest paid on student loans, along with other deductions such as the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is up to $2,000, and employee education-assistance programs.

Higher education is already hard to afford in America and this is another attack on education accessibility. I believe that everyone should have equal access to education despite their financial situation.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of help with it comes to paying for my education. This could impact my ability to pursue graduate school or a law degree.

There is still time to voice your opinion on this issue. The House passed their version of the bill which includes the taxation on tuition waivers, while the Senate’s version did not include these factors. The bills are now in conference committee, where their differences will be settled, and the same bill will be voted on in each chamber.

Continue calling your senators and representative to tell them how this tax bill will affect you as a student.

Rob Portman’s Office Numbers:

Washington: 202-224-3353
Cleveland: 216-522-7095
Columbus: 614-469-6774
Cincinnati: 513-684-3265
Toledo: 419-259-3895

This article originally appeared in The Post ( Kailee Missler is a freshman studying strategic communications at Ohio University. 

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