Grad student protest

Josh Wade, senior computer science student, holds a handmade sign in solidarity with graduate students protesting the House version of a tax reform bill on Nov. 20, 2017. The sign reads, "This is how you get smart people to leave America. Say no to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act!"

A group of students rallied Monday afternoon to protest a stipulation in the recently passed tax reform bill which would tax graduate tuition waivers as income.

Set up on the free speech lawn next to the Mathematical Sciences building, dozens of graduate and undergraduate students held up signs and encouraged onlookers to sign a petition against the bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives last Thursday.

Brian Zamarripa Roman, a graduate student studying physics, led the chants and allowed fellow protesters to speak into a megaphone about how the bill is expected to affect their lives.

“My mom worked really hard to get me the education that I needed,” Zamarripa Roman said. 

Roman will not be directly affected because his tuition is paid for by a fellowship, and is not taxed as income under the bill.

“I’m the first on in my family to get a master’s and this will be harder for my brothers and sisters to accomplish if this tax plan goes through,” Roman said  

Under current law, graduate students are taxed on the stipends they receive for teaching and research positions. The new bill taxes the tuition waivers they receive, which is money applied to the cost of attendance.

Angela Hernandez-Carlson, a graduate student studying animation, fears that she will have to save up the money she receives from stipends that would otherwise go into expenses such as living arrangements and use them to pay the tax on her tuition waiver.

"I will have to take out more loans and possibly extend the time it take for me to get my M.F.A.,” she said.

The bill also removes student loan interest deductions, which leaves students like Valerie Starks, freshman film major, uncertain about the future.

“So much is up in the air, I’m wondering if I’ll be able to afford grad school,” Starks said, who plans to attend Howard University after she graduates from UCF. “I’m just worried if that will even be a possibility at this point.”

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