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Republican representatives push to nix tax on graduate students

Rep. Steve Stivers speaks at the US Bank Conference Theater in the Ohio Union on Oct. 19. Stivers on Thursday joined 30 other congressional Republicans in opposing a provision in the tax bill aimed at graduate student tuition waivers. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

Perhaps getting cold feet after passing a bill before Thanksgiving, Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives are looking to keep to keep a controversial provision about graduate student income from becoming law.

On Thursday, 31 Republicans, including Rep. Steve Stivers who represents Franklin County, in which Ohio State resides, signed a letter urging Congressional leaders not to include the tax on tuition waivers for graduate students when the final tax bill is crafted in committee.

“A repeal of the income exclusion for graduate tuition waivers would harm our nation’s students, undermine our competitive position and hold back economic growth,” the letter said. “We strongly urge you to ensure that this harmful provision is not in the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

Both chambers of Congress passed tax bills in the previous weeks, but only the House bill included the tax on tuition waivers. With discrepancies in the two chambers’ bills, they will now meet in committee to bridge the differences and create one bill to send to the president’s desk.

Maxwell Holden, a first-year graduate student in the Master’s of fine arts program, holds a sign while he protests congressional Republicans’ tax bill in November. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Editor-in-Chief

The tax on tuition waivers has been highly unpopular among graduate students, sparking protests at Ohio State and this past week outside House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office. It has also drawn condemnation from higher-education leaders across the country, including University President Michael Drake.

The 31 Republicans undersigned on the letter Thursday expressed some of those same fears, noting that the future intellectual leaders of the country come from graduate school.

“These potential graduate students are our country’s future medical researchers who discover life-saving cures; engineers that develop cost-saving methods of production; and software programmers that code the next market-transforming mobile app,” the letter read.

Whether the tax on tuition waivers makes it into the final tax bill is yet to be seen, but Republicans have expressed a desire to have something sent to the White House by the end of the year.

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