Most college students are not eligible for the $1,200 recovery rebate (stimulus check) and their parents are not eligible for the $500 recovery rebate.
Section 2201 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) authorizes a recovery rebate that is worth up to $1,200 for eligible individuals ($2,400 if married filing jointly) and $500 per qualifying child. The recovery rebate is implemented by adding a new section 6428 to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
Most college students will qualify for neither.
Student Eligibility for the $1,200 Recovery Rebate
Individuals are not eligible for the recovery rebate if they can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return, per 26 USC 6428(d).
An individual can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return if they are under age 19 or if they are a student and under age 24, per 26 USC 152(c)(3)(A). They can also be claimed as a dependent if they are totally and permanently disabled.
Thus, a college student who is under age 24 can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return.
It does not matter whether they are claimed as a dependent, just that they can be claimed as a dependent.
There are exceptions if the student provides more than one half of their own support or if the student is married and files a joint federal income tax return with their spouse.
College students who are age 24 or older are eligible for the recovery rebate.
Student Eligibility for the $500 Recovery Rebate
The student’s parents may also not be able to claim the $500 recovery rebate for the student.
The $500 per child recovery rebate is limited to qualifying children, per 26 USC 6428(a)(2). Qualifying children are defined as children under age 17, per 26 USC 24(c).
Most college students are age 17 or older, so their parents are unable to claim the $500 recovery rebate for them. Based on data from the 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), only 0.1% of undergraduate students are under age 17.