Imagine there’s this really cool museum. It has a ton of things you love, and is dedicated to your favorite subject. Part of having all that cool stuff is that it’s a little pricey – let’s say $256* a day. But you think it’s worth it. You get to learn so much!
Then, even better, the museum decides that, since you’ve already studied a lot and know a fair amount about the subject, they’re going to give you a part time job. It doesn’t pay a lot, but it pays the bills, and means that you can spend more of your time studying, as well as contributing to your favorite subject, maybe making it more accessible to other people or expanding a particular exhibit or teaching people about your favorite subject.
As part of working there, you don’t need to pay $256 a day anymore. Depending how much you already know – how much you can contribute – you pay between $0 and $40 to get in every day. This might mean you won’t have to take out huge loans to be able to study – isn’t that great?
So you get to focus on studying and doing your work, and you’re not getting rich, but you’re not distracted by worry about whether you can afford groceries. It’s a pretty decent setup. Of course, you need to make sure that you pay taxes. Which is fine, because you like stuff like roads and clean tap water. Because you don’t make much, you pay $426 in taxes, which is about 3% of what you make in a year^.
But wait! There’s a proposed simplification to the tax code. That entrance fee you haven’t had to pay in full because you work there? It’s been decided that that’s too complicated. So the new tax code is going to treat it like the museum is paying you more money and then charging you normal admission rates. Because that makes sense, or something. Okay, you say. Shit, you think, and dig out your calculator. Under the new tax plan, you’d pay $3647. That’s 24.6% of what you make in a year – because you don’t actually ever see the entrance fee you don’t pay.
Can you afford that? Can you afford to study a subject you care about and try to contribute to everyone else’s understanding and experience of it? Can you afford graduate education?
*This is what my tuition costs per day of class. I have a Public Service Scholarship for what I’m working on, and I go to a state university. My tuition is cheap.
^Calculations made using the H&R Block tax calculator and my projected taxes based on no deductions and my actual stipend for this year.