Steven Jacobson is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying business and history.
Graduate students are anything but a core Republican constituency. Graduate degree holders backed Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, by a 21-point margin in last November’s election.  Nearly a calendar year after Ms. Clinton’s surprising loss to President Donald Trump, the president’s party is looking to deal another blow to graduate students. The Republicans’ proposed tax bill, which was introduced in the House of Representatives last week, scraps a key clause that makes graduate tuition more affordable. The new bill could sink many graduate students deeper into debt, or perhaps deter them from pursuing an advanced degree at all.
At issue is Section 117(d) of the tax code, which frees students from being taxed on any reductions they may receive from their institution in tuition.  Many students, particularly those in the STEM fields, rely on such reductions to make their graduate degrees affordable. In exchange for serving as teaching or research assistants for the university, many graduate students receive waivers that wipe out some or all of the sticker price for their degree. According to the American Council on Education, 145,000 graduate students receive such a discount, which amounts to about $15,000 on average.  This covers the nearly $18,000 that the average graduate student pays in tuition.  Under the current tax code, they need not worry about counting it as taxable income.