Do College Students Qualify for SNAP Benefits?

( – Qualifying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is more difficult for college students, but students can qualify in some circumstances. SNAP eligibility rules are based on the traditional image of a college student as a young adult being supported by their parents. However, most students don’t fit this definition, and many need government benefits to help them afford basic necessities.

General SNAP Eligibility

To qualify for SNAP benefits, applicants need to earn less than the program’s income limit, which is based on the size of their household. They’ll also need to own less than the limit for assets, savings, and other resources. These limits are updated each year, so potential applicants should check with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service for the current numbers.

Who Does SNAP Consider a Student?

Even if they would otherwise qualify based on income and resources, most students are not eligible for SNAP. Those who are degree-seeking students attending college more than half-time are counted as students for this purpose. This also applies to those attending trade or vocational programs that require a high school diploma or GED. It’s up to the school or university to determine whether a student is enrolled half-time or more.

When Can Students Qualify for SNAP?

There are some exceptions that allow students to receive SNAP benefits. Single parents and those working more than 20 hours per week are most likely to qualify for an exemption. Exemptions that allow students to qualify for SNAP include:

  • Working 20 hours a week or more
  • Having a disability
  • Being responsible for a child under the age of six
  • Being a full-time student and a single parent of a child younger than 12
  • Being younger than 18 or older than 49
  • Participating in a federal or state work-study program

Students who fall into these categories and meet the other program requirements usually qualify for SNAP benefits. Local SNAP offices can answer specific eligibility questions.

How Do SNAP and Financial Aid Affect Each Other?

SNAP and financial aid usually work together to the student’s benefit. Federal financial aid, including work-study earnings, student loans, scholarships, and grants, and private student loans do not count towards a student’s income for SNAP purposes. Depending on the state, financial aid that doesn’t come from the federal government and is used for living expenses rather than books or tuition might count as income. This will vary based on the state’s rules.

When it comes to determining federal financial aid eligibility, SNAP payments don’t count as income. Students who have received SNAP benefits during the past two years will have an expected family contribution (EFC) of zero, which can help them qualify for more financial aid.

What Should Students Know About Applying for SNAP?

There are a few important rules for students to be aware of. First, students will apply for SNAP in the state where they live, even if they attend school in another state. If a student isn’t living with or receiving financial support from their parents, they don’t need to list their parent’s income on their SNAP application. SNAP considers a household to be anyone who lives in the same home and buys and prepares at least half of their meals together to be a household. This means roommates who share meals could be considered a SNAP household and need to list everyone’s income on the SNAP application.

While many students don’t qualify for SNAP, those that do can benefit from the extra financial support the program provides. Food insecurity is a common problem for students, and SNAP can help them get the nutrition they need for health and academic success.

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