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College Park, MD—On behalf of the University of Maryland College of Education, Dean Jennifer K. Rice released a letter to the Maryland Congressional delegation, outlining serious concerns over how H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would harm graduate students and higher education institutions.
The text of the letter is below:
November 27, 2017
As dean of the University of Maryland College of Education, I am writing to express serious concerns over the effect of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, on graduate students, the University of Maryland, and the higher education system. The legislation would not only eliminate vital support that enables individuals to access graduate education, but also undermines the higher education system’s ability to provide education and conduct research that benefits the nation as a whole.
By eliminating certain tax benefits, the bill would impair graduate students’ ability to afford higher education. The bill would repeal Section 117(d), which allows colleges and universities to provide tuition remission to graduate students serving as teaching or research assistants without the tuition reductions counting as taxable income. According to data from the Department of Education, nearly 55 percent of graduate students have adjustable gross incomes of less than $20,000 and nearly 87 percent had incomes of $50,000 or less. Counting tuition waivers—which at University of Maryland may value more than $35,000 per year—as taxable income would drastically increase graduate students’ tax burden, making many students unable to pursue graduate education.
Enabling individuals from low- and middle-income backgrounds access to higher education is essential to creating a diverse and talented workforce. At the College of Education, equity in education is central to our mission and research upholds the importance of equitable access to quality education at all ages.
The ability to attract the strongest candidates to graduate school not only has implications for the College of Education, including our capacity to produce a diverse teacher workforce that serves the needs of our state, but also for the nation as a whole. Graduate students make an enormous contribution to research, through collaborative work with faculty mentors and ultimately as independent researchers, which contributes to understanding of pressing societal issues and to the development of discoveries that fuel economic growth. From understanding the brain’s role in learning disabilities to developing effective tools to address achievement gaps, the research that graduate students conduct is paramount to the nation’s interests.
Other aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as outlined to the Maryland Congressional delegation in a Nov. 17 letter from the USM Chancellor and Presidents, would harm the state’s public higher education system. Changes to charitable giving benefits and higher education financing benefits would hinder the state’s ability to generate revenue that supports public higher education.
In closing, I urge you to protect these tax benefits that are of critical importance to our students, the University of Maryland, and the higher education system, as this support benefits residents throughout Maryland and the nation as a whole.
Jennifer K. Rice
Dean of the University of Maryland College of Education
A slightly modified version of this letter was sent to the Maryland Senators.