Rutgers chancellor organizes town hall to address the future of graduate education
The Republican tax plan will eliminate the tax credits that graduate workers currently receive
University Chancellor Debasish Dutta spoke to students at a town hall meeting yesterday in regard to the future of graduate education under the recently passed Republican tax plan.
The bill, passed early Saturday morning, awaits further deliberation as House Republicans and Senate resolve differences between their versions of the legislation. It includes the elimination of tax breaks, which graduate students across the country receive from their universities, according to CNN.
Yearly tuition remissions awarded to students is money they never see, and essentially serve as a placeholder for the University, according to The Daily Targum. Under the new plan, this money is susceptible to taxation, which students will have to pay.
Throughout the meeting, Dutta and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies Jerome J. Kukor discussed the financial implications that the bill would have on students. The students in attendance voiced a series of concerns regarding diversity in graduate programs and the University’s support at this time.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the demand is probably 20 times what we can actually allocate," Kukor said. "We simply don't have enough money in the pot at the moment to actually make that kind of award package to bring students in to help us in terms of broadening diversity and expanding inclusion."
Charts and statistics projected onto a screen displayed the position and success of Rutgers graduate school programs compared to other schools in the Big Ten Academic Alliance. The University ranked higher in some areas than others but ranked especially low in financial support for students, taking last place among all 14 schools.
Students addressed their requests for the University to eliminate tuition for graduate students, as well as the lack of diversity among those in graduate programs. Kukor said that increases in out-of-state tuition do not allow for the University to allot the necessary funding to offer financial support packages.
"There are certain constraints within which we operate,” Dutta said. “This is not an excuse, but let's find a way to move forward. Let's find a way to address the kind of issues that you’re raising. These issues have come (forth), not because of actions made yesterday. This is how the institution has been moving for a number of years.”
Students in the audience referenced the thousands of dollars paid to administrators yearly and the $800 million in unrestricted funds held by the University.
Lauren Frazee, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, said that this information should have been collected long ago and that if anyone cared about the preservation of graduate education they would have analyzed it then.
“Starting this now, saying that this is something that’s coming now, that we want to be transparent. It’s bull****,” she said.
Frazee said this is not an initiative the University decided to present just now, but the trends shown throughout the night will become void as soon as the bill passes. Diversity, inclusion and rates of graduate fellowships from external funds will all decrease.
Despite this, Frazee said, “I feel totally better just because I think that any kind of communication in this way, whether it’s whatever, is good ... This is better than it not having happened, exceedingly better.”