Dependent college students should receive second stimulus check

Illustration by Ruqayyah Muslim | The Signal

Over the past few weeks, social media platforms like Twitter have been in an uproar over Congress’s second stimulus proposal. Many have debated whether it should be $600 or $2,000 and if it should come with Mitch McConnell’s head on a platter.

While active discourse on American politics’ current state should always be encouraged, many people are left out of the conversation: college students and those claimed as dependents.

Dependents are usually thought of as children under 18 but can go up to age 24 if enrolled in college. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, for college students, allows parents who are more than 50% responsible for their child’s finances to claim up to $2500 in tax credit per year.

While the break for our parents is nice, it doesn’t directly benefit the dependent person, and it restricts our eligibility to receive government aid during a pandemic. Even though many college students are almost entirely financially independent and personally responsible for their college expenses, their parents will still claim them as dependents.

College is costly, and despite most students receiving an online education this year, tuition costs have remained the same or risen. Professors still require books and online software that reach triple digits in price. Many students also had to find alternative housing and meal plans now that most universities have caps on their housing capacity. 

During these uncertain times, stimulus money could be the deciding factor for whether or not a student can attend college or live on campus. The CARES Act granted up to $1000 to students in the spring and early summer of 2020. College students who were eligible averaged about $600 each from this act. While helpful, this was over six months ago, and the pandemic is still raging.

Congress finally started discussing a second stimulus package, with several members advocating for the inclusion of dependent college students. This effort was blocked by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who would only open up a vote on the bill if irrelevant partisan issues were addressed. Once again, college students have found themselves struggling to come up with the money to survive and pay tuition.

USA Today reported an 8% decrease in college enrollment nationwide since lockdown in March 2020, with the economic effect of COVID cited as one of the largest reasons for that percentage.

It has become apparent that our current system wants to pick and choose when young adults can receive assistance from the government, which they support. Somehow it is perfectly acceptable for young adults to take out student loans and fuel the economy, but god forbid they receive a stimulus check.

College students deserve more. They pay taxes, vote, and many have been essential workers at the front lines of this global health emergency, yet they remain invisible to lawmakers whose job represents people’s needs.

College students need to be included in the process. To exclude them from the stimulus relief package is to tell them that they do not matter and that their struggles are trivial. To let that happen would be grossly negligent of our so-called democratic process.