Ohio State Graduate Students Protest GOP Proposal To Hike Taxes

Nov 29, 2017

Dozens of graduate students at The Ohio State University joined 50 other schools across the country in protest on Wednesday. Their target was the House version of the GOP tax plan - specifically, a provision that would tax the tuition wavers that graduate student receive in exchange for working at the university.

At the Ohio Union, Ohio State graduate student Alex Davis explains that many students like him live off a stipend from the university that's as little as $15,000 a year, while the annual tuition for out-of-state residents is over $30,000.

"You know, only making $15,000 but being taxed on $45,000 dollars would push a lot of students out of higher education, meaning no teachers to teach first year classes, or grade exams or carry out any of the basic research that universities depend on," Davis says.

As NPR reported, the House plan would cut taxes for U.S. corporations by over $1 trillion. But to help pay for those breaks, the plan would make graduate students report tuition wavers - which are common at Ohio State and schools around the country - as income.

According to the American Council on Education, "about 145,000 graduate students received a tuition reduction in 2011-12," NPR says. The council, along with dozens of other academic organizations, sent a letter to Congress opposing the plan.

Graduate students could see taxes skyrocket under a GOP proposal, which would tax tuition wavers that many receive to work at the university.
Credit Esther Honig / WOSU

The tax plan passed the U.S. House earlier this month, as Ohio lawmakers fell along party lines in the vote. But the Republican plan must still be approved by the U.S. Senate and is expected to undergo significant changes before it can pass there.

Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown are both on the Senate Finance Committee, which must sign off on the bill. While Brown has criticized many parts of the Senate plan, including provisions that remove the individual health care mandate, Portman says he's confident in the bill's success. That bill does not currently contain the graduate student tax.

Protesters plan to rally outside the office of Portman on Thursday to deliver petitions opposing the plan.