A Common Scenario
Alex*, is a full-time student attending a local college. Alex lives at home, pays for most of her own expenses, and usually works two part-time jobs. In addition, she balances many financial, emotional and academic responsibilities while participating in campus activities and organizations for professional development. For many students, attending a university is an expensive endeavor, made even more challenging with campus closures and furloughs because of COVID-19.
This reality is common for many students. Undergraduates are responsible for personal expenses which may include rent or housing, medical needs, hygiene, and transportation. These personal expenses don’t include school activities, and the academic essentials such as tuition, on-campus meals, and course supplies such as a laptop, books, etc. This means that many students need to take on additional employment to make ends meet.
Despite this adult level of financial obligation, most of these undergraduate students are classified as dependents based on the IRS tax-filing requirements. The IRS states that a dependent college student must be between 19-24 years old, live at home or within campus range, and that parents or guardians must provide more than half of the dependent’s support needs – these are some of main requirements that most undergraduates share as a tax status. The dependent support needs include food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education. There are some exceptions or limitations such as marital status, homeless or foster care, and absence of a parent or guardian. Young college students may choose to be claimed as dependents for financial aid purposes and health insurance reasons, two things that are more likely to impact students from lower-income backgrounds.