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What the tax plan could mean for post-graduate students




A graduate gives his attention to Elon Musk's commencement speech during the Caltech graduation ceremony on June 15, 2012.
A graduate gives his attention to Elon Musk's commencement speech during the Caltech graduation ceremony on June 15, 2012.
Andres Aguila/KPCC

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Many post-graduate students, especially those in PhD programs, receive tuition waivers in exchange for teaching or research positions on campus. The Senate plan under debate would preserve those tuition waivers, but the House bill that passed earlier in the week taxes them as income, putting an extra burden on students. 

It's now unclear how this will be reconciled once both pieces of legislation are voted on. Take Two sat down with Jane Panangaden, a PhD student in mathematics and a campus leader at Caltech, to talk about the possible implications for graduate students. 

"The term 'student' is misleading -- we are really workers," said Panangaden. "Most of the time, we are teaching classes, grading papers, working in labs."

Many PhD level students are older and have families, and some may be forced to drop out if the tax plan passes. Panangaden is originally from Canada, so she is considering finishing up her degree at her home country. 

"We are really pushing for innovation here, and we do so relatively cheaply," says Panangaden. "We deserve to be able to afford rent and food."

Taxing on tuition waivers could discourage people from entering academia, especially in the STEM fields. 

"Already, we are seeing people in computer science going into industry, so this will absolutely have an impact on people considering academia," says Panangaden.

 

Click on the blue media player above for the full interview