The Grad Student Tuition Fee Waiver, Explained

The tuition waiver provision of the tax bill was aimed at folks like this. Sorry about that, STEM.Paul Rodriguez/The Orange County Register via ZUMA

One of the provisions of the Republican tax bill would force graduate students to pay taxes on waived tuition fees. So if annual tuition is, say, $50,000, and that cost is waived, the student would have to pay taxes on $50,000 of income. Jeremy Berg, the editor-in-chief of Science, is perplexed:

It is not clear what the objective is, as the new policy would disproportionately affect students without additional resources to support their educations and would likely decrease economic viability and competitiveness as talent is lost from the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) enterprise.

Well, here’s the thing: I’m afraid STEM is just collateral damage in a war against economics, sociology, women’s studies, education, history, and so forth. These are all areas that produce lots of lefties who write mean things about conservatives, and the objective of the tuition waiver is to make life hard for them. Unfortunately, the tax writers couldn’t think of a way of making this provision apply only to “fields that harbor lots of liberals,” so STEM got hit too. Sorry about that.

On another note, I attended a math summer camp with Jeremy in 1975. We were not great friends or anything, but we all knew each other and this means he is now in the running for most famous person that I used to know when I was young. None of my friends from the 70s has won a Nobel Prize or become a show runner for HBO, so editor-in-chief of Science might well be the current top dog in my personal universe.