So, this petition was being passed around my Facebook wall yesterday by several of my grad student friends. Apparently, a group (presumably of grad students) is trying to push the US Government to make graduate student stipends tax-exempt once again, so that people could deduct their graduate income off their taxes like a mortgage interest deduction ... presumably since going to grad school is something that is presumed to be a Good Thing for people to do, that we should incentivize people to do in larger numbers by offering tax exemptions.
They're about halfway to their goal for signatures ... so if you agree with their mission, go ahead and sign. No guarantees, of course, but the White House has promised to at least consider moving on petitions that reach their signature goal. So you never know.
I won't be signing, though. I genuinely think that with the horrible academic job market and the rising proportion of contingent faculty teaching at the university level (not to mention the people who are miserable once they arrive in grad school but don't think they can leave thanks to academic culture), the very last thing that we need to be doing is encouraging more people to go to grad school. While it's (on the surface) an objectively Good Thing to encourage people to get more education, I'm not convinced that providing a tax incentive to encourage more people to pursue Ph.Ds is a good thing.
People coming out of undergrad into low-paid entry-level jobs have it tough, certainly. An advanced degree such as a practical masters' degree might help with that. But I don't think that subsidizing people further to spend a decade pursuing a humanities or social science Ph.D. is a good idea at all. While low-paid entry level jobs do suck, I think that graduating Ph.D.s who are in their 30s and 40s and who see only adjuncthood ahead of them with no job training behind them have it far worse. So I won't be signing the petition. In fact, I'd sort of like to sign an anti-petition. Perhaps someone could sponsor one that would double-tax graduate stipends?? Then, maybe, we'd have a more reasonable number of graduate students who could ultimately pursue the small number of tenure-track jobs that are out there...
I'm only half kidding. :)
(Of course, I also don't have the guts to post this as a comment on Facebook ... thank god I have a blog. :)