It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to make it harder for working people to access higher education. Yet the Republican tax plan could do just that.

I was born and raised in Cushing, Maine. After 10 years working in education, I am pursuing a doctorate in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. After I finish, I hope to return to Maine to live and teach.

However, the Republican tax plan would make it harder for me to complete my degree. In return for teaching undergraduates or working as research assistants, universities often give Ph.D. students like me a modest living stipend (this year I’ll receive $24,000 – not much in the expensive Bay Area) and, crucially, waive tuition. If the Senate adopts the House version of the tax bill, that waived tuition would be counted as taxable income. In my case, this would increase my tax burden by 61 percent.

This is terrifying for graduate students, but the larger problem is that this plan would undermine higher education in the short term – and therefore, hurt our economy in the long run.

With graduate school even more costly, fewer people will pursue advanced degrees, including in fields (such as science, technology, engineering and math) that are engines of mobility and economic growth. Moreover, graduate students serve as cheap labor for teaching undergraduates – if there are fewer graduate students, undergraduate education will inevitably suffer.

The Republican tax plan takes the most money from people who can least afford it, and it’s a drastic step in the wrong direction.

Sen. Susan Collins made me proud to be a Mainer when she spoke out and cast deciding votes against her party’s hasty and callous efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. With this equally irresponsible bill, I hope Sen. Collins will show the same leadership.

Sarah Payne

Berkeley, Calif.