U.S. House tax bill jeopardizes graduate students’ financial futures

Among other changes, the House GOP’s latest tax bill — the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in the House on Nov. 16 — counts graduate school tuition waivers as taxable income, a move which could discourage poorer students from pursuing a Master’s degree or Ph.D. Most students in graduate programs are paid in two ways: stipends, that are generally between $20,000 and $30,000, and tuition waivers, which allow students to attend classes at a heavily-discounted rate. Even with the stipends and tuition waivers, graduate students can still have a tough time scraping by — especially for those who need to support their families. In the current federal tax codes, stipends are taxed at the same rate as any other monetary income. Tuition waivers are tax-exempt. But the House tax reform proposal (which some Republican legislators believe will be passed by the end of 2017) counts students’ taxable income as their stipend plus the value of their tuition waiver. In a document circulated throughout graduate programs, Vetri Velan — a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Berkeley — declares that a student at Berkeley could see their federal income taxes rise by 30 to 60 percent. A student at a private institution like MIT, Velan notes, could see an increase of up to 240 percent. For Miami’s chemistry Ph.D. candidates — one of the highest-stipend programs at...

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Student government votes to support increased RA pay

The ASG senate voted unanimously last week to approve Sen. Mike Meleka’s bill that officially supports of an increase in resident assistant compensation. Currently, Meleka told the Senate, RAs are paid a flat stipend — for first-year RAs, around $7,900 in gross pay per year —  that can be put towards school tuition or fees if needed. Their housing and meal costs are not covered. Under ASG’s proposed plan, RAs would get waivers for their housing costs, meal plan costs, and residential fees, as well as a $1,300 stipend each year. These numbers have been discussed and casually agreed upon with the Office of Residence Life, Meleka said. Miami University’s resident assistants are in the bottom 10 percent of RA compensations across similar universities, as noted by the Resident Assistant Benchmark Study done by Colleen Bunn, Assistant Director of Residence Life. University policy also dictates that RAs are not permitted to hold another on-campus job, so this could be their only source of income. While an increase in RA compensation has been discussed among administrators, the student body is generally not sensitive to the issue. Meleka hopes that the passage of this bill will result in student support for the increase in compensation. “One of the reasons I do not believe the compensation change has been previously encouraged by the students and may not have had a response from...

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Trial date set for student facing rape, sexual assault related charges

HAMILTON, OH—Nicolas Cristescu, a Miami sophomore facing one count of rape, one count of sexual battery and 11 counts of voyeurism, had a trial date set for Jan. 9 – 11, 2018 and was denied lower bond on Monday, Nov. 27, in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas. Cristescu entered Judge Michael A. Oster’s Courtroom A, in the criminal division of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, for his plea/trial setting hearing around 1 p.m. on Nov. 27. After Cristescu’s alleged Oct. 12 attack in a residence room in Heritage Commons against a female student (known in court documents as “Jane Doe”) was reported to MUPD, he was placed in Butler County jail. He has been there for the past six weeks. In the original criminal complaint — resulting in Cristescu’s rape charge in the Butler County Area I Court — Det. Sharon Burkett of MUPD states that “Cristescu video recorded himself having vaginal sex with an unconscious female.” Additionally, in the five initial criminal complaints in reference to pandering obscene material to a minor, Det. Walt Schneider of MUPD says “Cristescu possessed a photograph of a naked, identified sixteen year old on his cell phone.” Those charges were eventually amended to a class one misdemeanor for disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. All of these criminal complaints were verified through the Butler County Area I docket search....

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ASG opens discussion on flexible meal swipes

ASG voted on Tuesday to pass a resolution supporting “flexible” buffet swipes, where a swipe can be exchanged for up to $12 in dining dollars. The senate doesn’t have the power to unilaterally change the meal plan, but ASG is a member of the dining committee, so this bill can trigger negotiations between Dining Services and ASG. The bill, co-authored by five on-campus senators and sponsored by five senators and the secretary for on-campus affairs Will Ziegert, proposes that ASG endorses a system where at least 25 percent of meal swipes can be converted to declining balance at the time of the transaction. The maximum value of a single swipe is $12, but the value is rounded up to the nearest swipe — anything less than $10 costs a full swipe. The remaining balance is forfeited. Initially, the bill offered “no more than 25 percent” of swipes being eligible for flexibility and a dollar value of $10 per swipe. Sen. Zoe Douglas proposed an amendment changing the dollar value of a swipe to $12 and increasing the limit to “no less than 35 percent.” The amendment was voted down, but a follow-up amendment by Sen. Sarah Siegel that proposed $12 swipes and “no more than 25 percent,” was approved by the senate. Brian Woodruff, the director of the H.O.M.E. Office, supported the initial version of the bill, said Sen....

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Faculty, staff responses to Climate Survey high enough for analysis

Though the reintroduced campus climate survey failed to garner the student response rate required for in-depth analysis, the employee response rate — 58 percent of staff and 60 percent of faculty — is high enough to permit the surveying agency, Rankin & Associates, to do cross-cutting demographic analyses of paid employees. Students responded at significantly lower rates — 17.7 percent for undergraduates and 26.9 percent for graduate students — that will not allow the same demographic breakdowns. The agency will still be able to conduct a professional analysis for next semester, said director of University News and Communications Claire Wagner....

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