Arkansas Universities: GOP Tax Plan Threatens Future of Graduate Schools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas universities worry one of the biggest tax-code overhauls in history could leave behind devastating impacts for their graduate students. 

Under the current version of the GOP tax plan the House passed Thursday, tuition waivers would be treated as taxable benefits. 

"You're going to make it highly difficult for people that have really good strong academic ability but don't come from wealthy backgrounds to go to graduate school," said Dr. Michael Moore, the vice president for academic affairs for the University of Arkansas System. 

Dr. Moore worries that would hurt some of the most important fields today, including STEM, cyber security and health care.

"Most of the scientific and medical discoveries that are so important to the world today found their origination in the laboratories on college campuses," he said. 

Most Republicans and other supporters of the legislation believe, overall, it would make the country more competitive.

"If we make it difficult for graduate students to attend college, we are going to seriously damage, potentially, the economic competitiveness of the United States compared to the rest of the world," Moore said. 

Then from the opposite end when careers are ending, agencies like AARP are concerned about the effect the GOP tax plan would have on health care for Americans 65 years and older. It estimates more than a million people from this demographic would experience a tax hike next year, with up to nearly five million in ten years.

"There's a long ways to go before we see a final version," Moore said. "I try not to get too exercised about these things early on."

Dr. Moore, also a political scientist, believes parts of the bill, like the tuition waiver, could just be a bargaining chip.

"The people have every right to be concerned about this, but it's possible it's just a negotiating ploy," he said. "And we won't know that until we get in further into the legislative process."

Reports call the Senate version less extreme, which is what we usually see since the House prohibits filibusters.

Senators don't plan to make any decisions until after the Thanksgiving recess. 

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