Policy: Letter to Congress Regarding Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Contributed by kjm34 on Nov 27, 2017 - 06:42 PM

On November 23, SSE, ASN, and SSB sent a letter to members of the House and Senate regarding the proposed tax on graduate student tuition waivers included in the version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the House of Representatives on November 16, 2017. Read the full letter below.

Subject: Negative Impacts of the Proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

We are writing as the presidents of the Society for the Study of Evolution (2,674 members), the American Society of Naturalists (1,323 members), and the Society of Systematic Biologists (700 members) to express significant concerns regarding the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. If the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses is repealed, taxes will greatly increase for many graduate students, such that pursuing a doctoral degree in the United States may no longer be financially feasible.

As you may know, most PhD students in the United States receive a small stipend, which is taxed as income, to cover living expenses while conducting research. Many also receive a tuition waiver in exchange for working as a teaching assistant or research assistant.

If the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is passed, and students’ tuition is taxed, graduate students’ tax burden will increase by roughly 30 to 60 percent for students at public universities, and 200 to 400 percent for students at private universities, where tuition is typically much higher.1 This tax burden would be more than a third of a student’s salary at a private university. Such a change would make pursuing a doctoral degree prohibitively expensive for many students.

Graduate students are invaluable players in the field of scientific research. Taxing tuition will prevent many from finishing their work, leaving their programs without a degree. Many more will be prevented from entering into a doctoral program. These changes would decimate advanced education in the United States.

To ensure the continuation of valuable research by graduate students across the country, please preserve the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.


Sally Otto
Society for the Study of Evolution

Kathleen Donohue
American Society of Naturalists 

Luke Harmon
Society of Systematic Biologists

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