In this petition, Princeton University graduate students call upon the University to oppose currently proposed federal tax legislation, and to keep our take-home pay from decreasing in the event that such legislation passes.
Currently, when graduate students in the US are charged tuition, and – as is typical for PhD students – a university waives that charge, the federal government does not tax the waived tuition. This is logical: it does not make sense to impose an income tax on something that isn’t income we take home.
However, a bill recently proposed in the US House of Representatives, H.R. 1 “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” would introduce a tax on graduate student tuition waivers. This would raise the income tax we pay every year, perhaps by $9,000 or more, significantly lowering our take-home pay.
Legislation of this kind would make it even more difficult for graduate students to make ends meet, here at Princeton and at public and private universities across the country. Graduate education would become even less accessible, especially for students from low-wealth or working class backgrounds, students with children and other dependents, international students, and students of color.
While we appreciate Dean Crittenden’s communication that Princeton has expressed opposition toward these measures, we are also aware that President Eisgruber and the University have opposed H.R. 1 in part because it would impose a tax on wealthy private university endowments, including Princeton’s.
For that reason, and because legislation like H.R. 1 would significantly cut our take-home pay and make life financially untenable for the vast majority of graduate students at Princeton and across the country, we seek these commitments from Princeton’s administration:
We, the undersigned graduate students of Princeton University, demand that President Eisgruber, Dean Crittenden, and the University administration commit to actively and vocally opposing any legislation that imposes a tax on graduate student tuition waivers. In particular, we demand that the administration commit to opposing any bill that would tax tuition waivers even if such a bill would not impose a tax on university endowments.
In the event that legislation is passed that does tax graduate student tuition waivers, we demand that Princeton’s administration commit to preserving our after-tax income at no less than its current level. The University is more than well-resourced enough for the administration to make this commitment even if it is not yet certain of the exact means by which it would do so. Whether the administration decides to change its accounting procedures, increase our stipends enough to offset the tax, or use some other just and transparent method, we demand our take-home pay be preserved without increasing our housing fees, teaching/AI duties, or research responsibilities.
We call upon the administration to communicate promptly and clearly to Princeton graduate students its position regarding each of these commitments.