‘I may have to drop out:’ Graduate students take on tax bill

UC Berkeley students gathered at noon on Sproul Plaza to protest the GOP's tax plan. (UC Berkeley photo by Anne Brice)

UC Berkeley students gathered at noon on Sproul Plaza to protest the GOP’s tax plan. (UC Berkeley photo by Anne Brice)

Dozens of UC Berkeley graduate students marched through the heart of campus on Wednesday to protest a version of the Republican tax bill making its way through Congress.

The bill, passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives, would remove a deduction graduate students can use to deduct the value of their tuition in exchange for working or doing research. Taxes for graduate students could climb by hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars.

Wednesday’s march was part of a broader effort by graduate students across the country.

“I’m out here because higher education is under attack,” said Mick Song, a second-year integrative biology Ph.D. student as he marched from Sproul Plaza to California Hall. “We don’t want this tax bill to pass, and we’re sticking together.”

Song said he thinks his taxes could rise by 20 percent if the Republican bill becomes law, and he might not have the money to continue researching the evolution of the aquatic azolla fern, which could be used for green bioenergy.

“I’m going to stick it out to see if I can continue to be a graduate student,” Song said. “And if I can’t, I may have to drop out.”

UC President Janet Napolitano and two UC student regents said in a statement that they stand “in solidarity with students as we work together to advocate for fair tax policies and to advance our shared mission of supporting higher education.”

“Tax reform should not be borne on the backs of our hardworking graduate students,” continued the statement, signed by Napolitano as well as Student Regent Paul Monge and Student Regent-designate Devon Graves. “They are vital to the university community and society at large: They further groundbreaking research, mentor the next generation and contribute to the economy. They are our nation’s future and deserve congressional support — not a tax hike.”

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu