Proposed Tax on Graduate Students’ Tuition Waivers Appears to Be Dead

December 13, 2017

A legislative provision that would have effectively taxed tuition waivers used by graduate students to offset their educational costs will not be in the final tax package in Congress, Bloomberg reports. A House-Senate conference committee met on Wednesday to discuss the compromise bill, which Republican leaders hope to put on President Trump’s desk as soon as possible.

Sen. Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, told Bloomberg: “Folks who are in grad school will feel pretty good about the final result.” The provision appeared in the House’s version of the tax bill, but not the Senate’s.

Nonetheless, several House Republicans voiced opposition to the waiver last week, sending a letter urging congressional leaders not to include the provision in the final tax bill. Thirty-one lawmakers signed the letter, which was sent two days after eight graduate students were arrested on Capitol Hill while protesting the proposed tax.

“A tax on graduate tuition waivers would be unfair, would undermine our competitive position, and would inhibit the economic growth that tax reform promises,” the lawmakers wrote.

Though the tax on tuition waivers appears now to be dead, it was not the only provision in the tax legislation that people in higher education sharply opposed.

“At a time when our economy is demanding more education for more of our citizens,” Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina, wrote late last month, “we cannot erect new barriers for the millions of Americans who need affordable higher education.”

Adam Harris is a breaking-news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHSays or email him at

Correction (12/13/2017, 4:06 p.m.): This article originally misidentified the U.S. senator who told Bloomberg of a positive result for graduate students. He is Mike Rounds of South Dakota, not Steve Daines of Montana. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.