Dec 19, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Elizabeth Koprowski

The Oxford Dictionary declared ‘youthquake’ the word of 2017.  Although the word was originally coined in the 1960s as a way to describe youth impact on “fashion, music and attitudes,” in 2017 it has come to reflect the power of young people to effect political change.

Take the GOP tax plan, which was revealed last month.  The highly contentious bill has met with challenges and criticism on many counts, but a provision to tax student tuition-waivers sparked national outrage and led to protests on college campuses across the country.  Students and academics arranged ‘grade-ins’ and rallies.  Social media and post-cards helped to spread the message that such a tax would cripple students’ ability to pursue higher education. The provision, which would have increased graduate student tax burdens by more than tenfold in many cases, was so unpopular nearly thirty GOP congresspeople shifted their stance.  With bipartisan opposition to the proposal, the provision was cut from the plan.

And today, as the House and Senate begin voting on the final draft of the bill, the plan goes to the floor without what one university administrator called “probably the most serious threat to doctoral education we have ever experienced.” Win or lose, grad students can rest assured that they will still be able to exclude their tuition-waivers from their taxable income.

Many still consider the tax plan problematic, citing cuts that ease corporate tax burdens, further threaten access to healthcare and change funding for secondary and higher education.  But for graduate and doctoral students, whose livelihoods both present and future often depend on untaxed tuition-waivers, the bill on display today is a small, but decisive victory at the end of 2017: the Year of the Youthquake.

Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA.

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