CORVALLIS - Oregon State University President Paul Risser has asked President Bill Clinton and other high-ranking government leaders to join in opposing a plan to impose a new federal tax on graduate teaching and research assistants.
In a letter sent this week to the President, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, Risser says tax legislation recently proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives would have "a devastating impact" on students.
Late last week, the House voted 253 to 179 for a new tax bill. One provision of the bill would require graduate teaching and research assistants to pay tax on any tuition waivers. Currently, tuition waivers are not considered taxable income for students.
"Since the tuition waivers for many schools equal or exceed the income students receive in wages, stipends or outside revenues, many students could find their taxes doubled, tripled or worse," Risser said in his letter. "In Oregon, this could have a devastating impact. If this plan becomes law, nearly 3,000 students at three institutions of higher education would be required to pay substantially larger tax bills."
Risser said tuition waivers help thousands of graduate students pursue degrees. In addition, the stipends support essential work in teaching and research throughout higher education.
"Rather than implementing measures that will increase the costs of education for more students, further tax exclusions that reduce costs and expand accessibility must be advanced," Risser said. He urged the President and others to help withdraw the provision as the legislation moves continues its move through Congress.
Clinton has already criticized the House plan, saying it does an "inadequate job of opening the doors to college."
Oregon State annually employs about 1,400 graduate teaching and research assistants. The University of Oregon and Portland State University also employ large numbers of graduate assistants.