College Students: The Forgotten Americans in a Pandemic

Mikelyn Britt ’23

Mikelyn Britt ’23

Full-time college students have been left out of the stimulus checks for the length of the  COVID-19 pandemic. Students aged 18 to 24 are still eligible to be claimed as dependents on their parents’ taxes and are therefore unqualified for the $1,400 stimulus checks. In addition to this oversight, because many college students are over 17, their parents do not receive the additional $500. Why are they different from any other dependents?

As a college-aged student, I question the thinking process of the government. Are we not qualified for the vital stimulus checks because we have the capability of working, unlike younger dependents? If so, how are we different from the adults above the age of 24 who are receiving stimulus checks? Unlike our older counterparts, we have lost opportunities for work. Alice Adamczyk notes employment issues for college students in her CNBC article, “Experts predict that coronavirus will have profound impacts on the financial futures of young Americans. Not only are some left out of receiving stimulus relief checks, but young people, ages 16 to 24, will also be disproportionately affected by coronavirus layoffs… since nearly half work in service-sector jobs, and make up 24% of workers in higher-risk industries overall.”  Many college students also depend on on-campus jobs to support themselves. With the massive lockdowns and forced at-home online learning, college students are out of a job.

It is not just being away from the campus that is causing this issue. The lockdowns mean that minimum wage job opportunities are no longer available. Summer jobs at the movie theater or local bowling alley are no longer options for returning students. Jill Cornfield quotes Jen Mishory in an article for CNBC, “’About 11 million college students work, and about three-quarters of them​ work 20 hours or more each week,'” affirmed Mishory. These statistics are staggering in terms of the United States economy, but even more so when considering individual students who are losing their essential jobs. Of course the loss of these jobs does not stop the rent from being due or the phone bill from coming. Unemployment has been cited as an option, Ryan Harr writes in her article for Next Advisor, “but students who otherwise might not qualify for help can now turn to​ the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.” While this is an option for students, we should not have been left out of the stimulus bill in the first place. I ask again: why are we different from other Americans?

I feel for the other kids like me who are being raised by a single parent during this time. Since my siblings are all above 17, my mother does not receive the additional $500 to her stimulus check. We are living on a single parent salary during a global pandemic where every penny counts. Parents now have to deal with paying the additional necessities of having kids return home. This does not exclude their personal financial troubles of losing jobs or pay cuts.

Paul Fronstin and Stephen A. Woodbury cite in their study on the loss of jobs at the start of the pandemic, “We estimate that as many as 7.7 million workers lost jobs with ESI as of June 2020 because of the pandemic-induced recession. The ESI of these workers covered 6.9 million of their dependents, for a total of 14.6 million affected individuals.” These stimulus checks (while not given frequently enough, but that is another issue entirely) are the difference between maintaining lives and falling beneath the poverty line.

The more recent nearly $2 trillion stimulus package finally includes college aged dependents. While this is a major step forward for college students in the global pandemic, it still does not erase the wrongdoings of the government thus far. We were forgotten for two stimulus checks which proved to be vital sources of financial stability. At the time of writing this article the House of Representatives have yet to approve of the bill.