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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Graduate students and their professors say their careers and programs are threatened by a provision of the House Republican tax bill that proposes tens of thousands of dollars in higher income taxes on American doctoral students.

Why it matters: The legislation, following a series of threats by the Trump administration that could reduce the number of foreign Ph.D students and their ability to stay in the country after graduation, could be another strike at U.S. dominance of global research and invention. Claus Wilke, chairman of Integrative Biology at University of Texas at Austin, said that should the proposal become law, he "could not in good conscience recommend a Ph.D. to anybody unless they were so rich they didn't care."

"I would tell them to see if somebody can offer you a slot in Canada or Europe where they don't make you pay for your Ph.D," Wilke said.

What the bill says: Currently, U.S. tax law exempts tuition that is effectively provided for free to Ph.D. and other graduate students. The proposal would lift that exemption, making graduate students liable for their tuition, which would be taxed as income.

  • For example, David Walsh, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in history at Princeton, tells Axios that he receives a $32,500 stipend every year, while grants cover his $49,000 tuition.
  • Under the GOP bill, his income would rise to roughly $81,000. After new deductions also included in the tax proposal, his taxes would be around $10,000 a year, he figures.
  • But that is about four times his $2,700 tax bill last year.
  • Walsh said he will not have to drop out because the new law would only take effect in 2018-2019, and "I have a partner who has a full-time job." But "there are plenty of others who aren't so lucky," he said.

"From what I can tell, this plan would fundamentally change the political economy of STEM research, which is an odd choice to make, at least from my perspective," Walsh said.

The House Ways and Means Committee is working on amendments to the tax bill this week, and it's likely to change. But as of last night, nothing altered the change to tax law affecting graduate students.

Heather Gillette, a Ph.D. student in biology at Northern Arizona University, tweeted, "My stipend is $20,000 at a state university. I also have two small kids. This tax plan would effectively remove me from academia."

Jeffrey Melnick, a professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, tweeted that he directs a small master's degree program. "This will kill it," he wrote.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”