About 100 University of Colorado graduate students and supporters packed the University Memorial Center fountain area Wednesday morning to protest the proposed Republican tax plan that would dramatically increase taxes for many students around the nation.
Hasti Rahemi, a Ph.D. student in CU's Leeds School of Business, was among the crowd lamenting whether she'd even be able to finish her studies if the plan passed.
"A lot of us international students might not choose to continue our education because we can't afford it if this goes through," said Rahemi, who is from Iran.
Rahemi's international student status hinders her from working outside of her university duties. On top of her job prospect constraints, Rahemi's international classification means her tuition will always be at the out-of-state price.
Tuition for an international student to earn a Ph.D in business is more than $36,000, while in-state graduate tuition for the same degree is a little more than $19,500, according to 2017 CU tuition rates.
Depending on a graduate student's appointment and whether he or she qualifies for in-state or out-of-state tuition, CU graduate student advocacy group Committee on Rights and Compensation estimated impacted students would see their taxes increase between 194 percent and 2,329 percent under the GOP tax plan.
"I can barely make it as it is," Rahemi said.
The students' outrage centered around a proposed GOP tax plan overhaul making its way through Congress with the touted goal of simplifying the tax code.
One change to the tax code in the passed House bill: qualified graduate students who currently receive a tuition waiver for their teaching and research contributions would be taxed for the tuition money they never actually receive.
The protest was a last-minute, student-organized effort that came together late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning through emails and word of mouth.
Florencia Foxley, a third year Ph.D. student studying the classics, helped organize the gathering that included chanting about "tax scams," discussion about the many duties of graduate students and an urging to call everyone's legislators.
"I'm inspired by the turnout," said Foxley, who teaches courses in Latin and literature. "I love my students, and it's a joy to teach here, but we deserve to be treated with respect by our government."
While some students expressed an inability to understand who would support taxing graduate students on their waived tuition, Foxley said the reasoning was clear to her.
"A less-educated electorate is one they can better fool and manipulate," Foxley said. "It's just punitive."