Using the Hashtag #gradtaxwalkout, thousands of students protested the GOP tax plan which includes a significant raise in graduate student taxation, yesterday. New York University students joined the nationwide protest during a rally hosted by different New York graduate unions at Union Square.
“Tax the rich, not the poor, you won’t have TA’s no more” protesters chanted. They said that a tax raise would cause many graduate students to drop out and therefore critically reduce the current number of teaching assistants (TAs) available at NYU.
Many graduate and Ph.D. students get their tuition waived for teaching courses or supporting their professors in research projects. The GOP tax plan, among other things, would affect about 145,000 graduate students by adding these tuition waivers to their taxable income. For some this would mean a de facto doubling of their annual taxes. For instance, a $40,000 tuition waiver added to a student’s taxable income would mean an increase of $6,000 in their tax load.
“It is obscene,” NYU doctoral student Steven W. Thrasher wrote in a widely discussed New York Times article on Wednesday, “that Republican members of Congress are even considering shifting a tax burden off the likes of Donald Trump and his heirs and onto overworked, underpaid and sometimes even homeless graduate students.”
Besides taxing tuition waivers, the GOP bill seeks to eliminate tax credits for students who pay tuition as well as the interest deduction on student loans. Though many undergraduate students at NYU said that they are worried about the tax plan proposal, many of them rather look at it as a theoretical threat that will not have any immediate effects on their studies. For Ph.D. and graduate students, the threat feels more real.
“If Congress implements the GOP tax bill as planned, next year I will pay about five times more in taxes than I normally do,” NYU Ph.D. student Gabriel Young of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC/UAW) said.
If the tax plan became reality, his real income will fall by about 25 percent, he said.
“I would likely be forced to leave my doctoral program,”Young said. “This tax bill is a direct attack on vulnerable graduate students who are already grappling with uncertain labor conditions and employment prospects.”
Demands have already been made towards the NYU administration and president Andrew Hamilton to protect students. In a press statement released on Wednesday, several New York graduate unions led by NYU’s GSOC/UAW demanded commitments to ensure that the income of student employees will remain the same if the GOP provision passes.
“We are calling out our university administrators for their complicity in the continued attack on graduate student working and living conditions,” the statement said.
According to CNN, Congress will vote on the bill later tonight or on Friday. After Senator John McCain gave an official statement supporting the bill today, the chance of the bill getting approved is now higher than it was ever before.