UMN grad students walk out over Republican tax plan

UMN grad students walk out over Republican tax plan

UMN grad students walk out over Republican tax plan

In solidarity with graduate students across the country organizing similar demonstrations, close to 100 graduate students gathered outside of University Hall to protest the proposed GOP tax bill, which would increase income tax on graduate student stipends and tuition waivers, effectively cutting their incomes in half.

An email to the campus community on Wednesday from Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly and Peter Vanable, dean of the Graduate School, reaffirmed the university's position on the controversial tax plan.

The tax bill passed by the House of Representatives would tax graduate students on their waived tuition.

All of Pennsylvania's Republican members in the U.S. House voted in favor of the tax plan, while all of the Democrats from the state voted against it.

"The tax bill that is now being debated in Congress contains many provisions that could do grievous harm to higher education, and to students who are seeking to improve their lives and contribute to society", spokesperson Michael Schoenfeld said.

(From left to right) Graduate students Misha Grifka, Natalia Colon Alvarez, Alison [f500link] Cummins [/f500link], Mariah Marsden, Liz Miller, Paige Busby, Yanar Hashlamon and Noah Bukowski protest the GOP tax bill at Ohio State University on November 29, 2017.

"The bill would basically make graduate education pretty much untenable for people who aren't independently employed, and what this demonstration at Rutgers and on a national level is doing is showing that graduate students are integral to the function of the University", she said.

"The University runs and is affected by the presence of graduate workers, so to have people walk out and leave those spaces is an effective way to draw attention", Hilary Rasch GS told The Herald.

"I'm a first-generation college student, so my family doesn't exactly have the money to keep sending me to graduate school or anything", Butler said.

Students chanted "one, two, three, four, tax the rich and not the poor!" and "two, four, six, eight, educate and agitate!"

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"That's not money that even goes into my wallet", said Vanessa Wallace, a student who is pursuing a doctorate tied to her degree in veterinary medicine.

For young working mothers like Cheyenne Finkbeiner, 22, who attended the rally with her baby, dreams of pursuing higher education may become much more unlikely.

The tax plan could also profoundly affect SU employees, Syverud wrote, because many of them benefit from tuition waivers. "Without the graduate university system, we all can't do it", Lewis said. Students are then left with $27,124 to cover rent, utilities, groceries, transportation and other essential expenses.

"I wanna be a nurse at some point", said Finkbeiner, with her son in arms.

Rather, the waivers exist to allow graduate student workers to make a living with their stipends, which are already subject to taxation. Congress, she said, has the power to stop the tax legislation.

Under this bill, graduate school will become unaffordable for anyone who doesn't have outside means to support themselves.

"We're not going to get through", Teitelman said.

The House of Representatives passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with support from Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY. It would effectively allow the government to take a cut of money meant to support education and research and redirecting "these dollars for what the government thinks they should be used for", he said. "In addition to the inclusion of tuition waivers as taxable income, the proposed changes in [the House tax bill] also remove tax deductions for interest payments on student loans - hitting these students from both ends, to unfortunate effect".

This would be a awful policy because it would hurt one of America's most prized and valuable possessions: excellence in advanced university research.

Speakers at the protest said they consider administrators and regents complicit in the decreasing affordability of higher education, including by approving a tuition hike this year, the first bump following a six-year freeze.

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