A few weeks ago, college campuses throughout the country were bustling with students. Now, they are eerily quiet and empty as everything has been moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with leaving campus and learning how to use digital platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting many students are suddenly facing unemployment.
According to the Urban Institute, about 600,000 college students have federal work-study jobs. This is just a fraction of the nearly 70% of college students in the country who work while in school. With the closing of campuses and shuttering of restaurants, coffee shops, stores and numerous other common places of employment for students, many college students are out of a job.
The CARES ACT, which was signed by President Donald Trump on March 28, will provide stimulus checks to many U.S. residents. Individual adults with an income up to $75,000 will be eligible for a $1,200 payment while married couples who make up to $150,000 annually will receive $2,400. Parents in these income brackets will also receive $500 per child.
College-aged individuals were forgotten in this act.
Children have to be 16 or younger for their parents to receive $500. To receive the $1,200 payment, those 17 and older cannot be dependent on their parents or guardians. In other words, college students and college-aged individuals who are not yet independent will receive nothing from the federal government.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig first learned that many people ages 17-24 were left out of this act when her son called her.
“I got a call from my 21-year-old college student son at around 8 a.m. (Sunday) morning, and he was online checking to see what level of rebate his girlfriend’s parents would be able to get and he called me and he asked, ‘is this on purpose, what happened here?’” Craig said in a Zoom meeting with journalists last week.
Craig recalled that throughout the day Sunday she received calls from college students in Minnesota’s 2nd District about being left out of the $2 trillion stimulus package.
Tuesday afternoon Craig introduced the All Dependent Children Count Act. The act would result in a $500 payment to parents per child who is 17-24 and a dependent.
As of Thursday, the act had 101 bipartisan co-sponsors.
While the federal government discusses money for college students, local colleges and universities are deciding if and how they will help their students financially.
At Dakota County Technical College, Minnesota State College Southeast, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the University of Wisconsin-Stout the majority of work study jobs are postponed.
“At this time, a small number of student workers are still able to come to campus for work-study positions if they choose to, in a very safe environment with maximum attention to social distancing,” said Katryn Conlin, the communications director for MSC Southeast.
Individual schools will determine if students will continue to be paid for their scheduled on campus work.
Emily Zimmer is the marketing and events coordinator for Dakota County Technical College. She explained:
“Students who were actively working during the spring 2020 semester will be paid for scheduled work hours per guidance received from the U.S. Department of Education, Minnesota Office of Higher Education, and the Minnesota State system office.”
On March 31, University of Wisconsin President Ray Cross sent a letter to UW System chancellors, provosts, human resources directors and others involved in the University of Wisconsin system that stated:
“All UW System institutions will be providing a one-time income continuation payment to all active student hourly workers as determined by those institutions. Institution-specific decisions on payment amounts will be determined and announced by each institution. Previously, UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee determined and announced income continuation policies.”
As of April 1 Stout and UW-River Falls had not made a decision about paying student employees.
MSC Southeast will continue to pay work study students for scheduled hours if they are unable to work because of the COVID-19 situation.
“At UW-River Falls, there are many students who come from lower-income households that could use a $1,200 stimulus check more than a student like myself where I will get by financially only having a reimbursement check coming in from the university," said Theodore Tollefson, a student at UW-River Falls. "It was necessary for the CARES Act to get passed quickly to help American citizens, yet with the rush to get the CARES Act passed by Congress and the Senate there are many American citizens who are being left out more appropriate amounts to help them get by these next few months without working.”
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