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GOP Tax Proposal a Concern for Graduate Students of Color

HOST INTRO: Graduate students will also be affected by the tax plan. As part of the overhaul, the House has proposed to tax them in new ways. While the House and Senate work to consolidate their plans, students are worrying and protesting. Students of color are particularly concerned about their futures. Colin Marston (CAH-lin MAR-ston) reports.

MARSTON 1: Traditionally, graduate students teach for low wages and receive free tuition in exchange. They don’t pay taxes on the value of that tuition. But under the House version of the tax bill, they’d have to start. Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin is associate director for research initiatives in science and math at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

VALENTIN 1: “The main problem with this bill is that it would increase the amount of taxes students have to pay. A traditional graduate student is going to make 20,000-30,000 a year. But would end up paying taxes on 70-80 thousand a year…it’s indescribable the fact that they would think that this would improve or help America.” (0.16)

Valentin is member of SACNAS, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. He says science needs more people of color, but the new tax plan would drive budding minority scientists away. And the numbers were on the rise.

VALENTIN 2: “Science in the US is very white and very male… we went from less than 1% Hispanic to around 3-5% every year although the total population of Latinos in the US is 15%… I think this is going to dial it back.

MARSTON: He says doing an advanced degree is a way to improve your prospects.

VALENTIN 3: It’s a way to reach the American dream. So this bill is limiting the American dream” (0.30).

MARSTON: Steve Munoz is a second-generation American, fourth-year PhD student in physics at Hunter College. He studies how energy is stored, and works on advances in new types of electrolytes used in batteries. We met in his lab…

MUNOZ 1: “Over here is our EPR Machine. Electronic Peramedics Machine and this is something that has been a workhorse in this lab for a long long time (0.08)”   

MARSTON 5: He says the proposed new tax plan came up so fast, he and his fellow grad students are barely prepared for what might happen next.

MUNOZ 2:  “I brought this up to them, and mentioned some of the details to them and the jaws just dropped because this represents a huge cut into our living wage. I was looking at some of the numbers, and it looks like even with the double standard deduction that my taxes could go up by thousands of dollars. And that’s simply something I’m not able to sustain.” (0.19).

Other grad students have echoed his concerns. [fade in ambi of protests]

Juan Avila, a PhD student in comparative literature at NYU attended a recent rally in Union Square. He says if this House bill goes through he’ll take a huge hit.

AVILA 1: Personally it would move me from being on a less than 30,000 income bracket to a more than 100,000 income bracket…In my case that would mean self-deportation because I would have to leave the United States…I would have to go to Costa Rica…

MARSTON: Where he’s from. Steve Munoz has one year left in his program. He says it’s frustrating that lawmakers don’t realize how much innovation stems from graduate research.

MUNOZ 6: “There’s papers and papers that come out every year with real impact. There’s inventions made by graduate students.”

If thousands of grad students have to give up that work…

“You’re going to see serious consequences down the line for our STEM field as a  whole, our innovation, our technology.”(0.20).”

The Association of American Universities, the American Association of State Colleges, and the American Council on Education, have all come out against the proposal. President Trump wants to sign the tax bill into law by Christmas, and in the meantime calls ring in Capitol Hall and protesters march in the streets.

[fade in ambi of protests again]

Colin Marston, Columbia Radio News.


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