Association of Big Ten Schools calls on Congress to support college students in relief stimulus packages

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - 6:52pm

Public Policy junior Amanda Kaplan and LSA junior Sav Nandigama, Central Student Government president and vice president.

Public Policy junior Amanda Kaplan and LSA junior Sav Nandigama, Central Student Government president and vice president. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Mobilize

The Association of Big Ten Students, composed of all 14 Big Ten student body presidents, released a letter on April 28 urging Congress to support the All Dependent Children Count Act. 

The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., after President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package providing $1,200 to all adults earning less than $75,000 per year, along with an additional $500 to families with dependent children under 17. 

Craig and Smith’s bill advocates for working families by expanding the definition of a dependent to include children younger than 19, students 24 and younger, and no age limit for dependents who are disabled. Many college students, however, do not qualify for emergency relief funding since most students under 24 are claimed as a dependent on a tax return.

The letter ABTS issued explained the challenges college students are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic including unexpected difficulties with leaving campus, changes in housing, food insecurity and lost jobs.

“It was disappointing to see that dependents over the age of 17 are not included in stimulus relief packages and cannot qualify for their own relief checks,” the letter said. “Many college students fall within this category. Young adults who have not yet begun to file taxes as an independent, but many who support themselves financially through on or off-campus jobs. The same jobs that many students have now lost.”

LSA junior Aidan Sova, executive director of ABTS, said the coalition’s representation of over half a million students across the 14 campuses of the Big Ten schools gives it a powerful voice to call on Congress for change. 

“I think there’s power in standing up on the behalf of 500,000 people and saying across the board, ‘You are not doing your job well enough, and we need more support and more action from Congress,’” Sova said. 

Public Policy junior Amanda Kaplan, president of Central Student Government, said the bill is important because not all college students who are dependents are financially stable, especially during the pandemic.

“I think that a lot of times people assume that if you’re dependent, then your parents can pay for your college tuition and therefore you have no financial troubles and that’s simply not the case almost all the time,” Kaplan said. “Just because you file under your parents, doesn’t mean that you have enough money to pay for tuition, don’t need to work for a job, don’t need to take out loans, don’t struggle paycheck to paycheck to pay for food or textbooks or rent.” 

Kaplan also noted the deep disparities existing among students across the country, emphasizing the need for greater financial advocacy for college students.

“We’re trying to demonstrate to Congress that the need is there and that it’s widespread and ubiquitous and that it’s not just one specific constituency that needs this, but that this gap exists across the country,” Kaplan said.

In hopes of making a lasting change, Sova said he wishes this letter and ABTS will send a message to congressional representatives to provide the necessary help for college students across the country.

“I’m hoping that this is a real eye opener for people, specifically the members of Congress, and when they are making these decisions that affect our entire nation, I hope that they remember that students are not just these young kids or second class or anything like that,” Sova said. “They are real, living people who are just as affected as some of these adults.”

Summer News Editor Kristina Zheng can be reached at krizheng@umich.edu.