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Posts tagged with: student loan debt

Tuition Waivers for Graduate Students

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Has anyone heard about the newly proposed tax plan regarding graduate student tuition waivers? If not, take a sec and read this piece Forbes published, linked here.

In a nutshell, under the new plan, any graduate student who receives a tuition waiver will be taxed on the amount of tuition that was waived. This can amount anywhere from $25-$60k+/year of what would be considered “taxable income” under the new plan. People I know still in graduate school are freaking out, calling friends and family to reach out to legislators, and trying to figure out what this might mean for the future of their educational journey.

I have super mixed feelings on the whole thing.

If you remember my debt journey (if not, read some background here), you know that my own graduate school story was a bit of a mixed bag. The university in southern Florida where I went for my Master’s Degree did NOT offer guaranteed tuition waivers. I ended up paying nearly $50,000 for two years of school tuition, accumulating nearly $70,000 in total debt when including total living expenses.

I had the option to stay for my Ph.D., but opted to move to another university because, in short, we were BROKE! We could not afford to continue living in the super $$$ area of the country paying $$$ for my education.

So we moved to a different university, which did offer tuition waivers in addition to offering paid RA and TA positions (research assistant/teaching assistant). The salary was next-to-nothing, approximately $300/week for the 9-month academic year, but it was WORTH IT because I got to go to school for FREE! I still took out loans to help cover some of my living expenses, but at a much smaller rate compared to my previous 2 years of education.

The problem with the newly proposed tax plan is the mathematics involved. You can’t pay taxes on $25-$60k/year worth of forgiven tuition if you’re only earning $15,000/year. Where would the money come from??? Oh yeah…more loans.

The reason I’m torn is because, fundamentally, I believe in paying for the things we have. For example, my plan is to pay off my student loans ASAP rather than enter into one of the plans that would allow the debt to be forgiven in 10-15 years. First, I don’t want to wait that long to have it gone. Second, I distrust hand-out programs like this (will the forgiveness program still be there in a decade? Will the loans even be forgiven? I’ve read horror stories of it NOT working out for many who were mistakenly entered into the wrong type of loan repayment program. This is a whole other blog post in its own right. Take a second to read this heartbreaking piece on the topic). Third, it was my debt obligation, I promised to repay it, and I want to take care of it.

But I also see student loans as the next big “housing bubble.” I’m not the only one, right? Student loan debt is ballooning at an alarming rate. What is going to happen when all these students default on their loans and are unable to repay them (and/or the debt is forgiven)??? I fear it could lead to another economic crisis. So anything to minimize student loans is a GOOD thing in my eyes. From that perspective, it’s not a good idea to tax the forgiven tuition because it could end up just being more money (paid for on a student loan) that is never repaid in the end.

I’m very glad to now be in the workforce, fully finished with all of my educational pursuits. But I worry not only about my friends who are still graduate students, but about the country in general (for the reason outlined above). This is scary stuff!

What are your thoughts? Should graduate students pay taxes on the amount of graduate tuition that is waived? Or should things remain as they are currently – where universities “forgive” the tuition internally and it is not counted as taxable income? What are other potential implications of the proposed tax plan?


Spring Break (+ Feb. Debt Update)

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Hi All!

Last year, my first year back to full-time work, my Spring Break happened to align with my kids’ Spring Break. I remember at the time colleagues mentioning how lucky that was and to appreciate it. So it was no real surprise when this year rolled around and, looking at our academic calendars, I realized our Spring Breaks did not align. Bugger!

But, I think we’re also making the best out of having separate Spring Breaks! This week is my school’s Spring Break (and hubs’ Spring Break as well). I’ll be back in Texas for a couple days to deal with some dad-related issues. But otherwise, hubs and I are looking forward to doing some serious manual labor out in our backyard. When we bought the house, it had nothing but chest-high weeds all through the back. We mowed them all down, but have done very little since then. Hubs has a friend who owns a landscape company and came over to take a look at our yard and offer some practical suggestions in terms of plants, placement, etc. So for the cost of some plants + weed killer + some hard work and elbow-grease, we’re hoping to get our backyard into a more presentable condition. We’ve allotted $200 to the project. It would be a project the girls could help us with…but will probably be easier without the interference, er, “help.” And I like that the couple days I’ll be gone are on days that they’re already in school. Makes it a bit easier for the hubs and makes me feel less guilt about being away (quick Dad update for those who have been following along and are interested – skip this part if you’re only here for the financial -my Dad, who has frontotemporal dementia, continues to decline. His speech is almost gone at this point and he lives in a constant state of agitation, presumably from the confusion and frustration associated with what’s happening to him. He’s been living in an independent living facility but we’ve been touring several assisted living and dedicated memory-care places. It’s a tough move to make but it’s coming up probably sooner rather than later so we’re trying to research and prepare accordingly. Being that the purpose of my trip is for things related to his care, my sister and I decided he would cover the cost of my airfare – something he would have done in the past if he had the mental capacity. I’ll be staying with my mom so I’ll have free lodging, and will only be paying my meals out of pocket which should be minimal. I’ll be there not quite 3 days.)

Next week is our girls’ Spring Break. In the future, I hope that we can plan family vacations (or even staycations) during Spring Break week, but with our looming tax debt ahead, that’s certainly not in the cards this year. Instead, we’re lucky to be able to hodgepodge together some childcare without having to pay extra to a babysitter. Hubs has class Mon/Wed (but is available other days) and I teach on Tues/Thurs (but am available other days), so between us, we’ll be able to always have one parent home with the kiddos.

I’m still on operation minimal-spending, too. It’s not a complete spending freeze because we still have to purchase essentials like food, fuel, etc. But I have been extra mindful about every dollar being spent. As an example, one of my daughters lost her water bottle for the second time this school year. Last time, I just jumped on Amazon and bought her a new one. This time around, I’m making her take my water bottle as a back-up. I explained that we can’t just get something new every time we lose our old item. It’s been a nice lesson in natural consequences and how its important to keep track of our things. It’s a bit of a punishment because my water bottle isn’t a nice or “cool” as the kid version, but at least it’s an adequate replacement so she’s not going without one. I’m really trying to scrimp and save and see if we can pay our full tax debt ourselves rather than relying on borrowing. I really want it PAID IN FULL by the deadline. I did talk to my sister, however, and if I need to borrow money from my dad it would be an option available to us. I really want to avoid this. It’s such “messy” terrain and I just don’t like the feeling. But I would be able to save the interest + penalties associated with an IRS payment plan. Something to think about, should it come to that (I still don’t have exact figures from our accountant).

In the meantime, I want to share my February 2017 Debt Update. As mentioned in a previous post, the debt payment was less than my originally intended $3,000 payment because I decided to just pay debt minimums toward my student loans so I can try to save up the extra money to put toward our IRS debt. Here you go:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment DateOriginal debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,1055.8034February82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025February
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$84966.5533February
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$71976.5529February
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63726.5525February
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$84976.5534February
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$98056.5519February
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$14000% (through Sept 2017)$800February$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)$0N/A
Medical Bills$43700% (must be paid by April)$1216February$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00%-Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$70,444 (Jan balance = 72,560)$2215Starting Debt = $145,472

This month (March), I’m putting less toward the balance transfer card – only $400 instead of the $800 I gave in February. I do NOT want to add “IRS” to the debt spreadsheet, so I’m just stockpiling money in hopes we can pay them their money and not move backward in our debt progression. That will mean lower debt payments for the next couple months (March & April). Even small progress is moving in the right direction.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately?

 

 


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