As House Republicans prepare for a vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act this week, graduate students at universities across the country are organizing mass resistance under the hashtag #SaveGradEd. Many are engaging in political struggle for the first time.

On November 13, over 300 graduate students and supporters marched on the Oval at the Ohio State University to protest a provision in the GOP bill that would make tuition waivers taxable income for graduate students. Forbes contributor Ethan Seigel argues that the tax overhaul bill would destroy graduate education in the U.S.

Emma Lagan, a graduate student in OSU’s anthropology department, described the frugal living conditions for students who rely on university stipends for teaching and research work. “If I’m lucky and get a teaching position for both semesters and the summers, I make just enough money to live on,” she said. “I’m always saying that I can’t do one activity or another because I don’t have the money. I avoid things like happy hours and restaurant outings.”

Lagan’s teaching position is “a lot of work, but I love it, and I love my students. The point is that I work for the money. I’m not sitting on my ass.” Lagan also takes courses, works on her dissertation, and pursues some side projects.

“Fortunately I don’t have to pay the almost $33,000 for out-of-state tuition,” Lagan said. “But the tuition waiver is not part of my income. In the proposed tax plan, I would move into a new tax bracket. I would owe thousands of more dollars in taxes without seeing an increase in income. I am just able to live on what I’ve got now. Should this bill pass, I could not afford basic living expenses. There’s a good chance that I would have to leave my program. This reckless change to the tax code would result in unnecessary hardship — not just here, but across America.”

Graduate students who receive a stipend for teaching or research are not permitted by OSU to take on an outside job to earn more income.

 “I would not be a professor today if this bill was passed when I was a student,” said Laura Lopez, Assistant Professor in OSU’s astronomy department. “This tax bill would do irreparable damage to graduate education in the United States, and its effects will be felt in many sectors, both inside and outside academia.”

Under the tax bill, continuing graduate studies would longer be a viable option for many of the 3 million people currently enrolled in graduate or professional education programs, Lopez said. “Students may completely forego grad school, depriving our campus of valuable members who are vital in teaching our undergraduate classes, staffing our research programs, and leading important events.”

 OSU would be far less capable of recruiting and retaining graduate students, and the bill would “have a devastating effect on the diversity of our campus,” Lopez said. “Academia already has a leaky pipeline and an underrepresentation problem. In my own field of astronomy, 40% of bachelor’s degrees are earned by women, yet only 19% of astronomy professors are women. 7% of astronomy bachelor’s are earned by underrepresented minorities, and only 3% of astronomy professors are black, Latinx, or Native American. Taxing tuition waivers would erase any progress we have made in the last few years to diversify academia and our workplaces.”

 “The GOP has decided to take their frustration out on us,” said protest organizer Alex Davis, a PhD student in physics and member of Socialist Alternative. “This bill constitutes an assault on higher education and an assault on us. We will stand up, and we will fight back!”