Tax Reform Response Letter

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Dear Colleagues & Friends, 

I write to update you on activity in the College of Arts & Letters (CAL) and at the University level in response to H.R. 1—Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. I want to thank Justus Nieland, Director of Graduate Studies in English, and Suzanne Wagner, Chair of the College Advisory Committee (CAC), for their help and encouragement in getting this matter before the CAL faculty and graduate students. 

One helpful bit of news: while the House bill that passed last week contains the provision to treat graduate tuition waivers as taxable income, the Senate bill currently under consideration does not. This means that, should the Senate pass a bill, this provision will come up in discussions in a conference committee to reconcile the two acts. There is still time and a need to make our voices heard about the way this provision will disadvantage students.  

What is MSU Doing? 

MSU’s Dean of the Graduate School Thomas Jeitschko has been leading our coordination with the Michigan Association of Public Universities, the Big 10 Academic Alliance, the Council of Graduate Schools, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (ALPU), and the Association of American Universities (AAU) to communicate publicly about the effects of the bill’s provisions on graduate students, and the public good more generally.  

MSU’s Office of Government Affairs is very active on the Hill right now, working to protect the interest of students and the University. 

A focus of our messaging has been on the specific ways that this bill will hurt Michigan students and citizens as a whole due to our position as a national leader in talent development via the University Research Corridor (URC). We have consistently ranked in the top two university research clusters in the nation for both production of advanced degree graduates in key economic areas and in overall economic impact. Graduate education helps attract and maintain innovative activity in Michigan across a variety of economic sectors including mobility, life sciences, and health services to name just a few.   

Taxing graduate students on tuition waivers will make it more difficult for students to earn advanced degrees. As with all tax policy, taxing means you get less of it. This policy, should it be enacted, will punish talented individuals and will drive others away from pursuing research careers. It would be detrimental for Michigan and the nation. 

What Can You Do? 

  1. I have been in touch with Dean Jeitschko, the MSU Office of Governmental Affairs, and the MSU Communications and Brand Strategy office in an effort to craft a statement on behalf of MSU. You are encouraged to read and share it. It was posted to the MSU Graduate School website here:
  2. Recall that Rep. Mike Bishop (MI, 8th district) is on the House Ways and Means Committee. For any version of this bill to become law, it will need reconciliation even if a similar resolution passes in the Senate. So, we need to let Mike Bishop’s office know how this bill will negatively affect graduate students. First-hand accounts from students are best. Please call or write or both. 

    The banner on Mike Bishop’s website currently reads “We need a tax bill that stops punishing you…” This bill clearly punishes graduate students and restricts access to graduate education to only the wealthiest of students. Please make your feelings known to Mike Bishop, and encourage your cohorts to do the same with their elected representatives. 
  3. Much of the 8th Congressional district lies in the University Research Corridor. Please spread the word about the positive impact our universities have on the economic health of Michigan and the nation. More information about that is here:
  4. Michigan’s Senate delegation stands opposed to the House Bill and is actively working to oppose and/or amend the Senate version. Neither Senator Stabenow nor Peters are on the Finance Committee. But as our Senior Senator, it may help to let Senator Stabenow know how the House provision will affect graduate students. Here is contact information for her offices:

Thank you, 

Bill Hart-Davidson
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education