UW grad student says ‘we all can rest easy’

Jacob Maddox, a UW-Madison research associate in nuclear engineering, says he and his colleagues “can all rest easy” now that the proposed tax on tuition waivers for graduate students is no longer included in the final draft of the Republican tax bill.

“It means a lot,” Maddox said. “It would have been really bad for grad students… it’s almost indescribable.”

In a letter sent to students by UW-Madison Graduate School in early November, Dean William Karpus argued the proposed change would cause a “completely unaffordable” increase in students’ taxable income and make pursuing a graduate school degree “much more challenging, if not impossible, for a large number of these students.”

“In turn, this would greatly damage our nation’s scientific research enterprise,” he wrote.

Maddox argues graduate students are underpaid already, so anything cutting their incomes further is significant. If the proposed tax had been included, he says the university would have needed to make some systemic changes or risk “a huge number of people” walking away from the grad program.

“Because of how compensation is structured, the proposed tax would have been devastating,” he said.

“Chancellor Blank was concerned about that provision and the impact it would have on graduate students at UW-Madison and other colleges and universities,” says Meredith McGlone, the director for news and media relations for UW-Madison’s department of university relations. “She has shared those concerns with members of Congress and we are encouraged by the direction they’re now going.”

Ravindra Misra, dean of the graduate school of biomedical sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says “we are pleased that the provisions placing negative impacts on graduate students” didn’t make it into the final bill.

“Maintaining the student loan interest deduction and other education-related credits facilitates our mission of training and educating students to build a healthier community for our current and future students,” Misra said.

“It’s like your future is being dangled over a crevice, and then it’s pulled back in… so we’re no longer hanging over the bottomless pit.” Maddox added.

–By Alex Moe