New senate tax bill screws over the Mount Holyoke community

Photo courtesy of Flickr  Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland

BY CHLOE JENSEN ’20

Early on Saturday morning, the GOP passed a new tax bill that would damage the American middle class. Although there are many elements of this law to criticize, like the cuts to Medicaid and the 35 to 20 percent corporate tax decrease, its effect on academia, and specifically, graduate students is particularly aboherrent. 

This new law would require graduate students to report any and all aid that they received from their graduate program as taxable income. For example, according to the bill, if a graduate student received a $50,000 yearly scholarship to cover tuition and a $25,000 stipend to cover living expenses, that graduate student would have to report their income as $75,000 a year, and would be taxed accordingly. In many ways, this bill affects many Mount Holyoke students and alums who want to pursue graduate school, and so both Mount Holyoke students, staff members and administrators alike should be angry and working their hardest to prevent this bill from becoming a law.

For many students looking into continuing their academic career, program funding is one of the only ways they can attend graduate school — taking out $100,000 in student loans just to cover tuition is simply not an option for most low-income students. 

As an institution that prides itself on its alums’ graduate school enrollment, Mount Holyoke did surprisingly little in addressing how this bill would affect the future of the College. There were no emails from the administration, Facebook posts or larger public discussions of how this bill could hurt the Mount Holyoke community. As representatives of the College perhaps they fear that speaking politically on behalf of the community could be misconstrued as inappropriate. 

However, Mount Holyoke has previously spoken out against political movements when they felt it was most important. Most recently, after the Trump Administration stated that it planned to appeal DACA, Acting President Sonya Stephens sent a letter to the entire Mount Holyoke community stating that she did not support the decision and that it would harm many Mount Holyoke students. Although President Stephens’ message did not change this law, it sent a powerful message to policymakers that this issue matters to people and institutions, including those that are typically nonpartisan. This new tax bill should be no exception. Mount Holyoke should have spoken out against it. 

Under the Trump administration, there is a trend new to constantly be angry with every action representative government and to simply accept it. As students who will be affected by this in just a few years,  we should fight to continue making graduate school accessible and affordable. 

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