Can college students get the third stimulus check?

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In mid-March, President Joe Biden signed the third stimulus bill into law, and for the first time, adult dependents — college students included — are eligible to receive a stimulus check.

Adult dependents have slipped through the cracks when it comes to stimulus payments and haven’t been eligible to receive any aid up until now, even though many college students have suffered job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic while still being expected to pay normal tuition and fees.

College students can receive up to $1,400

Dependent students were denied previous stimulus checks, but with the new bill, students who are at least 17 years old and are claimed as dependents are eligible to receive up to $1,400. That said, the amount students could receive is based on the adjusted gross income (AGI) of the taxpayer claiming them.

Single filers who earn less than $75,000 a year and married joint filers who earn less than $150,000 a year will qualify for the full stimulus amount. Reduced stimulus payments will go to single filers who earn between $75,000 and $80,000 and married joint filers who earn between $150,000 and $160,000. If you’re a college student and the person claiming you as a dependent earns more than that, you will be ineligible for a check — regardless of how much you earn on your own.

Also keep in mind that college students will not be receiving payments directly. Instead, that extra payment will be sent to the taxpayer claiming them as a dependent.

CNET’s third stimulus calculator can help you predict your family’s potential stimulus check amount using the taxpayer’s filing status, AGI and number of qualified dependents claimed.

How college students can use the stimulus check

There are no limits on how you can use a stimulus check. It can be spent, put into savings or even used to plan for retirement. Arvind Ven, independent financial advisor and CEO of Capital V Group, advises students to use the extra cash to invest in their future. “Their parents, who are the taxpayers, could potentially assist in investing the amount for them and if eligible, in a ROTH IRA.”

However, every student’s financial situation is unique. Paying monthly bills, chipping away at existing student debt or bolstering savings could be wise uses of your stimulus money.

Students may be able to claim an additional $1,800 recovery rebate

Dependents over the age of 17 were previously excluded from stimulus payments, but you may be able to recoup those checks. “Some college students and other young adults may also be able to claim up to an additional $1,800 from the two prior stimulus programs,” says Ven. This $1,800 amount takes into account the first $1,200 check and the second $600 check.

You may be eligible if you aged out of the adult dependent category or underwent a qualifying life event, like graduating college and entering the workforce. If this is the case, you can file for “Recovery Rebate Credit” when you submit your 2020 tax return.

There is no penalty for applying; if you’re unsure if you qualify, the IRS has a page where you can check the recovery rebate requirements.

Also check your personal records and bank statements in case it was already deposited. The first checks were sent out starting in March of 2020, and the second were sent out starting in December of 2020.

How to track your stimulus payment

There’s always a possibility that your stimulus is still on its way, as a number of factors could have potentially delayed it. To see if your stimulus is on the way, use the IRS’ “Get My Payment” tracker. You’ll be able to track both the $1,200 and the $600 payments and see by which method the checks were distributed — either by direct deposit or by mail.

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Written by
Hanneh Gundersen
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Gundersen specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor