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Grad students still have mixed responses to passed tax bill

Evan Johnson, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in physics, holds a sign in the Ohio Union at a November protest against the tax bill proposed by Congressional Republicans. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Editor-in-Chief

The tax reform legislation President Donald Trump signed into law in December was missing something noteworthy: section 1204. For anyone who protested the provision, which would have taxed graduate students’ tuition waivers as income, its exclusion should have led to rejoicing.

But for some Ohio State graduate students, after holding multiple protests on campus and releasing letters in an attempt to combat the provision, the decision to drop the tax provision was not enough.

Aiden Irish, a second-year doctoral candidate in public administration and management, said getting rid of the tax on waivers was a “hollow victory” in the finalized tax bill that he called a “policy disaster.”

Through all the potential concerns, Irish said he is “hesitant to be happy,” but instead relieved he gets to continue his education.

“I get up in the morning and no matter how stressed I am, I think it’s a pretty significant gift that I more or less get paid — albeit not very much — to go to school, to do research and to do things I love,” Irish said.

On the other hand, Noah Charles, a second-year graduate student in physics, said politicians who supported the bill in its final form are worrisome.

“I think that the current GOP ideology is to defund colleges and universities and hope that some market forces will sort of create a better situation, but for the short term,” Charles said. “I think general consequences of that will be that many, many fewer people will be able to participate in postgraduate education and the people that do get to participate will be the independently wealthy.

“That’s not a world that I want to see.”

He said pulling the tax provision was not done to support graduate students across the country who might be negatively affected by it, but because the politicians had no choice but to respond to their concerns.

“I think that we really did actually end up being heard,” Charles said. “Now that’s not because I think the Republican Party was particularly sympathetic to our position, but rather because when you mobilize that many people in that many different places, people realize that maybe you know this isn’t a good idea.”

2 comments

  1. With grad students like Irish and Charles I’m seriously concerned that my alma mater needs to strengthen it’s admission requirements into grad school. Suppose it’s hard though to expect anything more from the “me” mentality that has become prevalent in this country.

  2. @John yes, taxing grad students was going to do SO much for the collective “we” of society. Really gleaning a lot of untapped dollars right there, can’t imagine how much public good we could have accomplished with that boost!

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