The Honorable Joni Ernst
The Honorable Charles Grassley
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senators Ernst and Grassley:
I am writing to urge you to vote against the proposal in the current House of Representatives tax bill that would tax tuition waivers for graduate students.
As the Director of Graduate Education for Iowa State University’s Graduate Programs in Architecture, I work with two dozen student Teaching Assistants who receive 1/4 tuition waivers in exchange for ten hours of work per week. Their work is vital to our department, and their enthusiasm and dedication enable us to continue offering a full range of courses to undergraduate students. Tuition waivers are also a vital recruiting aid. As prices for public education increase, we must offset tuition costs if we are to compete for top international students, especially. In many cases, they choose to come to America, and to Iowa State, even when they can attend graduate school for far less—or even fully subsidized—in their home countries.
Today’s Des Moines Register notes that the current House proposal would effectively add $1,100 to a typical graduate assistant’s tax bill. My experience with recruitment and working with our graduate students tells me that this would gravely damage our ability to recruit good students, to retain students who rely on assistantships to ease rising tuition costs, and to keep our department running smoothly after more than a decade of budget cuts. The damage to our program and to Iowa State would be profound, all, according to the Register, for about $3.68 million dollars of new federal tax revenue per year. This is, interestingly, less than the amount our State has just decided to pay a head football coach—yet this provision would gravely damage public universities and the billions of dollars of revenue and economic activity they generate.
Please do not sell out institutions that have been important contributors to the economy and life of Iowa for over 150 years. I urge you to vote against any provision that discourages graduate student enrollment, and particularly the penny-wise, dollar-foolish suggestion that we tax some of the hardest working, most promising young scientists, entrepreneurs, designers, and engineers on our University campuses.
Thomas Leslie, AIA
Morrill Professor and Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture
Iowa State University