AUSTIN, Texas -- The House version of the tax plan turns graduate student tuition waivers into taxable income, leaving the future of many those working towards an advance degree uncertain.
Many grad students at the University of Texas at Austin are taking action. Scattered across the South Lawn on Wednesday were graduate students with demands. The GOP tax bill is putting their education in a gray area.
“It would effectively prohibit anyone, but the independently-already-wealthy from entering graduate school at all,” said Nina Sport, a graduate student who studies comparative literature.
Graduate students take on campus jobs as teaching assistants, tutors or researchers to qualify for a tuition waiver. But it isn't something they can live on.
Some say they receive an income as low as $15,000 a year.
“I don’t think I know one grad student who has one job,” said Aris Clemons, a doctoral student of spanish linguistics.
She joined the University in hopes of supporting undergraduate students of color and those who came from low-income backgrounds. Under the House version of the tax reform, those benefits would count as income.
“This tax code would make it look like we’re just handed you know $26,000 or whatever the annual tuition is, which is just not the case," said Melissa Heide.
Heide is a graduate student who studies English literature. She teaches an undergraduate class, is a research assistant and is working on her own humanities project using big data. In addition she has a part-time job.
In a rally Wednesday, protesters feared an unfortunate forecast if the bill became law.
Joshua Ortiz Baco is a doctoral from Puerto Rico who is at UT studying literature and culture. Ortiz Baco said if the billl becomes law, he would have to go back to Puerto Rico, where the country still has not fully recovered from the devastating hurricanes.
"We make sacrifices and we come into this aware that we have to make sacrifices, but this is not that," said Ortiz Baco.
Graduate students are calling on the University to make changes, too. As for UT, an associate dean told Specturm News for now, it's looking at ways to stay competitive.