SU students protest GOP tax bill over tax increase on grad tuition credits

Nov 30, 2017

Many students at Syracuse University protested congressional Republicans’ tax bill Wednesday. The students said they are upset with a tax increase on the tuition credits of graduate students.

Gemma Cooper-Novack is a graduate teaching and research assistant at SU. She receives tuition credit in addition to a stipend for her work. She is not paying taxes on that tuition credit, worth tens of thousands of dollars. But she might have to if the GOP tax bill is signed into law.

“I’m taxed as if I have literally, four times the income I have," Cooper-Novack said. "If the tax bill passes, graduate education will become completely inaccessible for all but the very wealthy.”

SU student protester.
Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

That sentiment was shared by Michael Walter, an SU senior and undergrad researcher.

“Let’s not act like our fees going through the roof and us being put below the poverty line isn’t just to subsidize dudes with private jets,” Walter said. "If this gets passed, graduate programs officially just become a class gateway in the sense that only people who already have outstanding capital to afford graduate programs continue to do so, while people who would go to graduate programs to do research, to progress society, are priced out of it.” 

Brandon Daniels (center, right) talks with other SU students.
Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Brandon Daniels, a second-year SU graduate student, said he can’t get central New York Republican Rep. John Katko to change his vote for the tax bill. So, if the bill goes through, he’s calling on SU to raise their stipends to offset the cost of the tax increase.

“We know that the university has the money to do this, it’s just a matter of whether or not they prioritize our labor and care about providing for us, making sure we can survive,” Daniels said.

He said if that does not happen, students may end up in more debt or just drop out.