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Posts tagged with: student loan forgiveness

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?


Student Loan Forgiveness Program To Be Cut???

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Has anyone seen this news story floating around the interwebs?

The headline reads: “Trump to Propose Scrapping Beleaguered Student Loan Forgiveness Program.” It’s got a big picture of Betsy DeVos face floating around with the headline.

In the story, reporter Jillian Berman discusses how a leaked education budget shows plans to eventually chop the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). Its not a sure thing. The budget plans are not yet finalized and, even if they were, it would require Congress’ approval.

I’ve seen lots of panic and political drama surrounding it on Facebook. My mom tagged me in one such post to get my thoughts on the issue.

And here I am, sitting on the sidelines. I graduated with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt (now sitting right at $65,000 – latest debt update here). I’m taking the position that I’ve never wanted to depend on any of the government loan forgiveness programs. For many years – long before Trump took the presidency and appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education –  I’ve been saying that I didn’t trust these government programs. I’ve always maintained the position that I don’t want to depend on the government and that the PSLF program (or any of the loan forgiveness programs) could ultimately just disappear one day. I don’t want to make major career decisions on the basis that I need to go into this field or work for that sector in order to qualify for PSLF because WHAT IF the program ends up discontinued?? Then what? Where would that leave me? Up shit creek with no paddle, that’s where!!!

Instead, I personally have always taken the view that I just want to PAY OFF my loans as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the loan forgiveness programs. If I were already on a career-trajectory where I intended to be in public service I would certainly be looking into it – I just don’t want to force myself down that road simply for the hope of possible loan forgiveness at the end of it. Actually, I’m on an income-based payment plan where any unpaid interest on my subsidized loans has been forgiveness. It’s not loan forgiveness (it’s only interest forgiveness…and only on some of my loans), but it’s a related student loan program and I’m taking 100% advantage of it while I can. But in terms of the major government-backed loan forgiveness programs (like PSLF), they have never sounded like appealing options for me.

What are your thoughts on the controversy? Is anyone signed up for the PSLF program that would be directly impacted if it were to be discontinued? How scary!