House Republican Opposes Grad Student Tax

December 8, 2017

Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, on Thursday circulated a letter to House colleagues urging GOP leaders to exclude from final tax reform legislation a provision that would tax graduate students' tuition benefits.

The letter signals at least one House Republican is focused on an issue graduate students across the country have organized around for weeks. On Tuesday, about 40 graduate students protested at the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, leading to nine arrests.

"A tax on graduate tuition waivers would be unfair, would undermine our competitive position and would inhibit the economic growth that tax reform promises," he letter reads.

The provision -- one of several in House tax reform legislation stripping current student and borrower benefits from the tax code -- would effectively treat tuition waivers offered by colleges to grad students as taxable income. For many graduate students, that change could increase their tax bill by several thousand dollars, making the cost of their programs unaffordable.

While the House legislation passed last month included the repeal of tax-free tuition benefits for grad students, Senate legislation passed over the weekend left out that and other House provisions affecting student benefits. A conference committee named by House and Senate leaders Thursday will soon look to iron out the differences between the two bills. Higher ed lobby groups like the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the American Council on Education have joined students in calling for those provisions to be excluded from final legislation.

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