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BMES opposes elimination of tuition waiver for graduate students proposed by House tax bill

The Biomedical Engineering Society strongly opposes the proposed change to make tuition waivers granted by universities count as taxable income.  This provision, in the tax bill endorsed by the House of Representatives, discourages graduate education, especially in the technology, engineering, health and science sectors that are vital to our economic future.
Graduate students in these STEM fields pursue their education with support from a modest stipend, often less than $30,000 per year and typically from their universities, intended to cover the cost of food, board, and healthcare.

Graduate school tuition is often waived for these students, a benefit that can vary from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on degree of enrollment and institution.  By eliminating the tuition waiver, the House of Representatives asks that graduate students pay taxes on the full cost of tuition each year. Thus, the House bill would ask our engineering students to pay taxes on up to $80,000 per year, of which less than $30,000 is spendable income, resulting in a annual tax increase of thousands of dollars. This new tax burden would force nearly all graduate students except the independently wealthy to discontinue their graduate education.
 
The United States has maintained a global economic advantage through the strength of our doctoral education programs, and particularly through our research-based engineering programs.  

Biomedical engineering is unique for having attracted nearly 50 percent female engineering students that have obtained degrees and become vital members of the US engineering workforce.

Our BMES student members will go on to generate new technologies and identify novel strategies to improve human health, identify solutions for threats to human health, and to improve global access to health care.  They will also generate new industries and contribute to local and global economies. 

The bill passed by the House of Representatives will significantly increase the tax burden on graduate students, ensuring that our most talented students pursue education elsewhere, eroding innovation and reducing our international competitiveness.
 
It is for these reasons that we urge you to reach out to your Congressional representatives and demand amendments to the proposed tax reform bill that will support graduate students and graduate education.  Tips and resources to advocate for biomedical engineering are available at http://aimbe.org/advocate/.

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