The purpose of the Faculty Senate is to create an effective faculty organization that can enter into partnership for shared responsibility and cooperative action between the faculty, administration, staff, and students in order to promote the general welfare of the university.

The following letter is the Faculty Senate response to H.R. 1, the "Tax Cuts & Jobs Act," and its impact on higher education. Called for by a Faculty Senate resolution, it was sent to the Virginia congressional delegation.

We are writing to you in our capacities of Officers of the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate in regard to H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” which was passed by the House of Representatives on November 16, and that is currently slated to go to before a House/Senate conference committee.

As passed by the House, this bill eliminates section 117(d) of the Tax Code, which currently exempts tuition reductions and waivers for teaching and research assistants. If this provision were to become law, many thousands of graduate students at Virginia Tech and other research universities in Virginia would see their federal tax bills increase by thousands of dollars.

Many of our graduate student research and teaching assistants rely on stipends that are below the federal poverty line (stipends for full-time, 20 hour assistantships for the 2017-18 academic year range from $1,443 to $4,082 per month, with the average in the $2,500 range and many students on half-time appointments). As a result, abolishing the tax exempt status of tuition waivers and remissions would mean that many current graduate students would be unable to continue with their studies, and that the pool of eligible applicants from which future graduate students are drawn would shrink drastically. It will be very difficult for institutions such as Virginia Tech to make up for this tax increase by raising graduate student salaries without substantial cuts in other areas as well as significant increases in undergraduate tuition rates.

This will not only have a devastating impact on the students who are directly affected, but it will also adversely impact the core missions of US universities. The quality and quantity of research done at universities will decline, as graduate students become more expensive and will be selected from a more restricted pool. US universities will produce fewer high competency graduates with advanced degrees. The cost of undergraduate education will also increase as graduate teaching assistants will become more expensive. The net result will be fewer innovators and fewer discoveries to power the future economic growth of the United States, and a higher education system that will be even less accessible to those of limited means.

For this reason, on behalf of the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate, which represents over 1500 faculty at our institution, we strongly urge you to oppose the elimination of section 117(d) of the Tax Code, and to communicate this opposition those of your colleagues who will be serving on the conference committee for H.R. 1.

Sincerely,

Hans Robinson Associate Professor of Physics President, Virginia Tech Faculty Senate

John Ferris Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Vice President, Virginia Tech Faculty Senate

Bob Hicok, Professor of English Secretary/Treasurer, Virginia Tech Faculty Senate

Announcements

Spring 2018 Faculty Senate meetings will take place on the following dates, location TBD.

Meetings dates are:

  • January 23,  2018
  • February 6, 2018
  • February 20, 2018
  • March 13, 2018
  • March 27, 2018
  • April 10, 2018
  • April 24, 2018 (reception)