The Parthenon

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Editorial: College students should pay attention to the GOP Tax Bill


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If you are planning on graduating this winter or in the spring, the world may come at you fast. The anxiety of having to find a job, a place to live or deciding if you want to further your education can be over whelming.

Well, that anxiety level may increase if the GOP Tax Reform Bill passes through the U.S. Senate, especially if you plan on moving to another state or going to graduate school. In the newly proposed tax reform plan created by the Republicans in Congress, students going out into the work force and grad school may be facing a number of cuts in their fields and a huge raise in taxes.

The bill, if passed by the senate, would raise tax on tuition waivers for graduate students and university employees (this includes graduate and teaching assistant positions). What this means is, if you were to have part or all of your tuition paid for by the university in exchange for teaching or research, then that tuition benefit, whatever it may be, would be counted as income and therefore taxable.

Why would Republicans propose an idea like this? Well a school of thought is that students who are entering a graduate or Ph.D. program will inevitably be able to pay off these debts once they enter the work force. The Department of Education estimates that around 60 percent of students going into masters or doctorate programs are students studying in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

All of these fields lead to, presumably, a profitable job and industry for the graduates. For the other projected 40 percent, this would almost certainly leave them in debt. In 2015, USA Today reported West Virginia’s average student loan debt was around $27,713.

Of course, this is circumstantial towards a student’s financial status, but the question now must become why would someone want to seek a second degree? If a student is already in debt because of student loans from their undergraduate years, then they look for help through what is known as Qualified Tuition Waivers.

QTW’s would become taxable if the bill would pass. This does not mean students need to entirely worry about paying more in tuition. In an article written by Preston Cooper for Forbes Magazine, Cooper said if a university wants to avoid giving their graduate students a raise in taxes, the university can reclassify their QTW as scholarships. Scholarships are not taxable by the GOP tax bill.

For those who will be going into the work force and hoping to move out of West Virginia should also know this bill would affect the estate tax throughout the country. New York, New Jersey, California and Maryland are states which may end up paying more in taxes where the 46 others may receive a tax break.

Daniel Donavan of State Island, the only Republican congressman in New York City, spoke to reporters a week ago about this issue and how this is punishing wealthier states that already pay higher real-estate taxes.

“There was a study I saw showing four states will end up paying sixteen billion dollars more in taxes, and 46 states will pay less,” Donovan said. “Those states are New York, New Jersey, California, and Maryland. Those are the people that are subsidizing this tax break for the rest of America.”

Last week, the House of Representatives approved the GOP Tax Bill, which now brings this to the Senate. The vote has not been set for a specific date, but along with an additional provision that gets rid of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, this bill may appeal to enough representatives to pass.

Republicans have been looking for a win in Congress since the election of Donald Trump, and this could be the first one they receive. This would not be a small win either and could be detrimental to many in the middle class and those going into grad school or the work force.

Little attention has been paid to this bill because, on its surface, it looks like a tax cut for everyone, but depending on your financial situation, this could set students back right out of the gate.

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