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SNAP Eligibility Rules/Rights for College Students

Date: 
10/04/2022
Author: 
MLRI
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College students are continuing to struggle with tuition costs and shrinking financial aid. Many students are eligible for SNAP benefits but not accessing them. This webpage gives you information on who is eligible - especially during COVID - and how to apply.

Since the onset of COVID, food insecurity on college campuses has increased. See Health Affairs Forefront, Food Insecurity On College Campuses: The Invisible Epidemic (January 2022). "According to the most recent Hope Survey from fall 2020, 38 percent of students in two-year colleges and 29 percent of students at four-year colleges reported experiencing food insecurity in the previous 30 days. The report also highlighted significant racial and ethnic disparities: 75 percent of Indigenous, 70 percent Black, and 70 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native students experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness, compared to 54 percent of White students." 

SNAP rules for students during COVID. 

While the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) remains in effect, the following 2- and 4-year students are SNAP eligible: 

  • Students awarded work study, even they do not anticipate doing a work study job, or
  • Students with an "Expected Family Contribution" of EFC of $0 or
  • Students who received a full Pell Grant.

These are temporary COVID rules currently in effect. Once the public health emergency ends (and if Congress or USDA make no additional changes), student will have to qualify for ongoing SNAP under the pre-COVID rules at the end of their SNAP certification period. Even after the public health emergency ends, many students may still be SNAP eligible under the pre-COVID rules including if awarded work study, receiving a MassGrant, caring for a child, having an impairment or disability and other exemptions. See the SNAP Advocacy Guide.  

When Congress created the special Covid student rules, USDA issued a detailed Policy Memo on Feb 2, 2021 and the US Department of Education issued a media advisory on March 19, 2021 urging colleges and financial aid offices to do direct outreach to help students enroll in SNAP benefits. In 2021, the MA Department of Higher Education (DHE) also informed certain students of these expanded rules around February 3, 2021. See DHE letter, attached below.  

SNAP rules for students at community colleges, Ben Franklin Institute of Technology and certain voc/tech schools

On 8/29/22, DTA issued Online Guide Student updates to clarify that the following college students are also SNAP eligible (they do not have to meet other student exemptions): 

  • all community college students (associates degree and certificate programs)
  • students attending the Ben Franklin Institute of Technology
  • students enrolled in post-secondary career and technical education programs offered by many Massachusetts voc/tech high schools

Under the new DTA Guidance, students are allowed to self-declare their college status by telling DTA the name of college where they are enrolled. This policy change eliminated the long-standing DTA forms that students had to bring to their financial aid and academic offices.  Note that students still have to meet the SNAP financial and other eligibility rules (US citizenship or legal immigration status)

State, local and private financial aid not countable for SNAP and cash.

On 8/29/22, DTA also revised the SNAP and cash rules (see DTA Online Guide Student Section) to stop all state, local, private financial aid (loans, grants, stipends, scholarships, assistantships) as non-countable income. Prior to this, only federal financial aid was non-countable and students had to verify that their non-federal financial aid was not available for living expenses. That rule has changed, and students no longer need to get DTA forms filled out by the financial aid offices. 

FAQs and Resources for students:

DTA current and related policy guidance re SNAP and students:

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