If you're a college student hoping to cash in on the government's payouts during the coronavirus pandemic, you might be out of luck.
The historic $2 trillion stimulus package will provide no money to Americans over the age of 17 who are claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's 2019 return. For millions of college students and high school seniors, this means no money from the government and likely a total loss of income for the foreseeable future.
As a 19-year old college student claimed as a dependent, I will be one of those millions of young Americans receiving no government assistance during this pandemic.
After being kicked out of their dorm rooms, forced to move back home, fired from their jobs and required to rapidly adjust to online coursework, many college students are reeling from the whiplash of having their entire lives upended. For many, the past three weeks was a constant guessing game of what the university would do next.
Personally, I packed up most of my room in under 24 hours, unsure of when I would be returning, and left a significant amount of my stuff in my dorm because of mixed messages from the university. I have no idea when I'll be able to get my stuff back or even when I am allowed to go back to campus. My sister, a senior in college, was told at noon that she had to drive three hours back to school to pack up her room before 11 p.m. that same night or risk not being able to get back into her dorm for the rest of the semester.
Study abroad students were expected to pack up a semester's worth of items and fly across the world back to their home with less than 24-hour notice in some cases. Students with unstable housing situations back in their hometown had a matter of hours to make major life decisions about where to go for the next few weeks (or months, or year). Many students have lost the only source of income they had in the form of their on- or off-campus job. Some are still paying for off-campus housing despite having to move out. Several universities have left room and board refunds up in the air, leaving thousands of dollars in limbo.
Students are still being forced to pay full tuition despite what I can describe in my own first-hand experience as a disconnected, lackluster, and fundamentally inadequate online education that is worth a fraction of the steep price tag that accompanies it.
Many colleges, including my own, have moved to optional pass/fail grading for courses because they know that the quality of education and the work that students put in is just not equivalent to the on-campus experience.
The government has afforded some peace of mind to college students and recent graduates with temporary relief for student loan borrowers. Most federal student loan payments have been paused through September 30 and there will be 0 percent interest on them through at least May 20. However, private loan payments (which constitute 12 percent of all student loan debt in the U.S.) are still continuing. Federal Family Education Loans and Perkins loans are still required to be paid as usual under the new law. A proposal to cancel upwards of $10,000 of student loan debt per borrower failed to garner bipartisan support in Congress and was left out of the final stimulus package, ensuring that not a dime of government money goes to support financially-unstable students and recent graduates during this crisis.
The financial uncertainty that is permeating the consciousness of American college students has prompted additional anxiety during the pandemic. While I did not personally have a job on my campus, my heart breaks for those students who relied on their on-campus jobs (or part-time jobs in the surrounding area of their school) for income. I did file taxes the past two years because of a job that I hold at home and sometimes do remotely while at school; however, I (and millions of other tax-paying college students) are still unable to claim financial independence.
Unable to file for the unemployment plan in the stimulus because of limited hours and unable to receive government compensation because of their dependency status, millions of college students are losing out on crucial opportunities to earn and save money.
Students who worked hard to earn competitive internships and summer positions now find that those opportunities have vanished, along with the paycheck that accompanied them. Students who rely on on-campus resources like counseling, health services, support groups, and other university-funded programs are struggling to find replacements for these often life-saving resources.
College students deserve a payout from the government stimulus package just as much as any other American.
Students enrolled in universities across the country were among the first Americans to have their lives turned upside down by this crisis, and the government has largely turned their back to their financial needs. Many students are missing out on crucial income and on-campus resources in addition to the priceless memories that accompany the college experience. It should not be the case that parents receive $500 for a 16-year old dependent but $0 for a 17-year old dependent.
In failing to include college students in the stimulus bill, the government has failed to provide financial protection for one of the demographics most vulnerable to layoffs and the overall financial limbo that this pandemic has created. Five hundred dollars is the least the government could do to provide some financial comfort to ailing college students.