Vetri Velan

Indian American Vetri Velan, a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley, along with Kathy Shield, created an online calculator to estimate the cost of the House tax plan. (LinkedIn photo)

Indian American graduate student at U.C. Berkeley Vetri Velan, along with fellow grad student at Berkeley Kathy Shield, created a calculator that will estimate the cost of the House tax plan.

Velan, a graduate student in physics, and Shield, a graduate student in nuclear engineering, created the online calculator in response to concerns of how much the Republican tax plan would cost them, according to a university report.

The House version of the Republicans’ major tax code revision would remove a deduction graduate students can use to deduct the value of their tuition in exchange for working or doing research, the report said.

Taxes for graduate students could climb by hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars, it said (see earlier India-West article here).

Velan said the calculator estimated that his taxes would raise by $1,100, or 30 percent, the report said.

Shield said the calculator is designed for students who file singly, and therefore have relatively simple taxes, the report noted.

“In each case, our calculator indicates that their taxes will increase if the changes in the House version of the tax bill go through,” she said in the report.

Velan, the report said, also took part in a recent protest by graduate students on the steps of Sproul Hall, done in a broader effort by graduate students across the country to draw attention to the impact the tax plan would have on them and on higher education.

Originally, he wrote an analysis with a few examples of U.C. Berkeley and MIT students, but found that stipends and salaries vary widely for students, it said.

“I felt the calculator would raise awareness by showing students the effects on their own personal finances,” he said in the report.

In addition to helping build the calculator and taking part in the protest, Velan is contacting legislators and encouraging colleagues and friends to do the same, the report said.

“Some grad students organized a phone blitz for students to come and call their legislators! So the entire community has been coming together on this issue,” he said in the report.

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