LARAMIE, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming has joined colleges around the country in lobbying against any congressional tax legislation that could hurt graduate students’ ability to pay for their education.

A tax plan passed in November by the Republican-led U.S. House would remove a tax exemption for tuition waivers. A version passed by majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Saturday doesn’t do that. But a reconciled version could include the House provision.

Jim Ahern, UW’s associate vice provost for graduate education, told the Laramie Boomerang the House version could very well cut the number of students considering graduate study and hurt those already in Laramie.

Chris Boswell, a vice president for governmental and community affairs, says UW is lobbying the state’s congressional delegation on the issue.

Many graduates receive a tuition waiver as master’s or doctoral students or as teaching assistants. The university covers about $4,500 in tuition and more than $1,300 in student fees — waivers that currently are treated as non-taxable income.

Graduate student Jordan Giese says he never sees that money — and would have to pay taxes out of a small stipend he earns as an assistant for two courses should the House version prevail.

“It’s been a lot of considerations in the last two weeks that I did not think I’d be having,” Giese said. “People already go into a considerable amount of debt to go into school to begin with.”

The only way I can do a Ph.D. program is if I get a tuition waiver and stipend,” said Kurtis Butler, who is considering whether to pursue a doctorate after finishing coursework in geography. Butler is wrapping up his thesis.

“I’m a first-generation college student, so my family doesn’t exactly have the money to keep sending me to graduate school or anything,” Butler said. “And for my master’s, I relied solely on that tuition waiver and stipend.”

Boswell said the university has many partners in its effort.

“We team with other universities and other associations to make sure that the message isn’t simply about the University of Wyoming — although we are focused on that,” Boswell said. “But we want members of Congress to know that this has an impact that is very broad across many, many institutions of higher education.”


Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com