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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Storm in a Teacup

Currently, these tuition waivers are paid by the college directly to itself, on behalf of the graduate student, and are not counted as taxable income. Under the new GOP tax plan, however, those tuition waivers would be taxed as regular income, making graduate school an unaffordable proposition except for those already independently wealthy….This is money that, as a student, you never see. It’s paid to the University by the University on your behalf, and you don’t pay taxes on it.

This is also money that is never named. My PhD tuition was waived, and nobody ever mentioned any actual figures. The schools that want to attract talented grad students can simply say the amount waived is twenty bucks. This is precisely what will happen because everybody wants the smartest, not the richest, grad students.

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12 thoughts on “Storm in a Teacup

  1. This is out of topic, but I have a question.

    What do you think about 19th century British literature? (I want to take a literature course next semester)

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  2. Demotrash on said:

    Also off topic (as are all of my comments), but why do you think there’s so much interest in outing sexual abusers specifically right now? Some victims are the rich and famous, some aren’t. Personally I’m happy to see scumbag celebrities and politicians getting their comeuppance, and I suspect others are too, but in theory different sins could be getting exposed.

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    • As I understand it, Americans tend to stage eruptions of sexual paranoia every 20-30 years. In recent times, there were the “free love” hippies of the 60s, then the satanic cults perverting babies in daycares in 1980s, now this. It’s like a ritual of sorts. It will blow over soon enough.

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      • I spent some time working in an office that dealt with graduate student tuition waivers…. (flashbacks! argh!). I only dealt with that a little but….what a friggin’ mess.

        Anywaaay, in this case it was only for grad students who were employed in certain positions (TAs, RAs, a few others). One person in the office had been at a university where the tuition waivers were simply subtracted from the budget (probably a simplification but the idea was that the university just wasn’t receiving that income).

        Where I was, however the official position that if the grad students weren’t paying then somebody else had to and so a big bureaucracy was created about one part of the university ‘paying’ the other which kept a half dozen people employed year round. Oh, and it wasn’t all fees but just some of them according to a complex formula the specifics of which have been mercifully purged from my memory.

        One the one hand, it was a lot of tedious bureaucratic detail that generated huge amounts of paperwork (anytime the students employment or schedule changed they had to start from scratch with the fee waivers…. On the other hand the experience gave me a practical insider’s view of how bureaucracies work (and don’t) which has been verrrrry beneficial to me over the years.

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  3. Almost 40 on said:

    This is on topic: what you’re describing might be possible at private institutions but at public ones, like where I got my PhD, tuition must be publicly posted (and MA students always pay tuition; PhD students sometimes do) so saying that tuition now costs $20 would be impossible. I knew exactly how much tuition was “covered” every semester. I wonder whether this policy would disproportionately affect public universities.


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    • So they will lower the waived tuition or call it something else. There is zero chance that public schools will lose good students over this.

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      • I’m not 100% certain that’s true. I wish I knew more about how budgets at Universities worked (well, I sort of wish I knew – I am sure it is also extremely dull). But I know for many fields of science, when you apply for a grant to fund a student, you not only have to budget for the student’s salary and health benefits, but also their tuition. I recall that many folks stated that because of tuition, in many cases funding a grad student cost more then hiring a postdoc. So universities do make some money of off the federal government by their high tuition rates, and for that reason may not want or be able to drop tuition costs. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason tuition is so high is because the students funded via grants compensate for the students who are not.

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        • If it’s funded through a grant, then it’s actual money and it should be taxed. Here were are talking about the fear that non-existent money will be taxed.

          I had a grant during my MA and part of my PhD, and of course I paid taxes on it.

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  4. Yes to other anon. The science grad students who are TAs have a tuition remitted by the university which could be set to 20 bucks without loss of money. However the students on RA or research assistant do not do TA work for the university. Their tuition is covered by a grant (usually from the feds like the NSF or something). This tuition goes from the federal government right to the university and is at least several thousand dollars a semester per student per semester. Some large fraction of students are on RA in any given science department, my estimates are a low one at 30 and a high one of 50 percent. The feds also usually pay tuition on behalf of students over the summer as well so a large grad program in a single department generates hundreds of thousands of dollars a semester for the university.

    Maybe science programs would become more like a math departments; the feds cut off the student money so every grad student is a TA, yet research goes on.
    However, right now there is a trend against universities funding TAs. At my university the science departments are dropping TA positions(where they still have to pay out TA stipends) in favor of adjunct positions, or paying senior undergrads close to minimum wage to grade papers for freshman level classes.


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