OPINION: Should college students claimed as dependents receive stimulus checks?

Nicolas Ziccardi, Staff Writer

With the furious debate and discourse over stimulus checks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one demographic, who’s likely less invested in the arguments, is college aged students. Why? Because they won’t be receiving one. Full-time students younger than 24 have not been eligible to receive stimulus checks, nor have their parents been able to receive one like they do for dependents under the age of 17. 

While it’s not surprising that many college students are upset about this move, bias withstanding it genuinely is a glaring omission in an already lackluster set of payments to the American people that begs several questions. Mainly, why are college students any different than other dependents? 

First, it’s important to identify what it means to be a dependent and why that matters. According to the Internal Revenue Service, “A dependent is a person other than the taxpayer or spouse who entitles the taxpayer to claim a dependency exemption.” Parents and qualifying relatives can claim family members as a financial burden and receive tax breaks and other credits and deductions.

For qualifying dependents, you can claim as much as $4,050 in exemptions from your taxable income. While this is more than the current stimulus checks both proposed and already sent have totalled to, it is simply not enough for the current environment Americans are facing. Tax deductions and credits are undoubtedly crucial, I don’t believe anyone would argue to the contrary. However, when unemployment rates are still trudging along at 6.7% to reach where they were before the pandemic (3.7% on average in 2019), cash on hand is arguably more important than any end of filing benefits. At the very least, why not subtract the proposed $1,400 in stimulus payments from the $4,050 in deductions if the federal government literally cannot afford it. 

At the very least there is no legitimate reason why college age dependents shouldn’t count as a child for their parents to receive stimulus funds in their name like they do for under-age dependents. What is the rationalization for this move? 

Is it because they are considered taken care of if they are attending college and thus don’t need the funds? If that’s the case, then why are child-aged dependents any different? Why do they count for their parents to receive the stimulus checks if they are financially supported?

Is it the idea that college students have the ability to work so they don’t need the extra money? That would hardly make sense as that’s no different than non-dependent adults. 

For millions of Americans, especially those in poor financial standing, these payments are not just a supplement to their income, they could be the difference between maintaining their lives and falling into poverty. 

In addition, there is a much more likely chance that any money going out to college students is going back into the economy. College students are paying off bills and buying goods, they aren’t hoarding money. And if they are, then it’s clearly necessary if students are forgoing payments and putting cash towards savings, a crucial thing for young adults. 

The proposed stimulus bill Democrats are championing would include $1,400 payments for everyone, including college-aged independents. However, it is yet to be seen if this bill will be passed, and if so, what shape or capacity it will be in. Republicans on the other hand, have shown a reluctance to approve any more direct relief payments period, let alone payments for college-aged students. But with a Democratic senate majority and talk of budget reconciliation abuzz, we very well could see progress made towards granting everyone, and this time truly everyone, the financial support they need. 

If this issue is important to you one way or another, then let your member of congress know. You can find your representatives and their contact information here.