More College Students Can Now Get SNAP Benefits for a Limited Time

by Natasha Gabrielle | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on April 30, 2021

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College student studying in a library.

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If you're a college student who is struggling to afford food, you may want to check if you meet the new temporary SNAP benefits qualifications.

The cost of college is expensive. Tuition, room and board, and food costs can all add up quickly.

To make matters worse, because of the pandemic, many college students are struggling more than usual with their personal finances and food security.

Food insecurity impacts people of all ages and lifestyles, including college students. According to a survey of 38,602 college students conducted by The Hope Center, food insecurity impacted 38% of students at four-year institutions and 44% of students at two-year institutions. This survey was conducted in April and May 2020, shortly after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The good news is that there is more help available for students who may be having trouble putting food on the table. Since January, a temporary policy change has made more college students eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Keep reading to learn more and to see if you qualify for help.

SNAP benefits could help reduce food insecurity for college students

Normally, students attending college at least half time were ineligible for SNAP benefits unless they met the limited exemptions that are in place. But thanks to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, even more college students who are possibly facing food insecurity troubles are now eligible.

Signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, this legislation provides additional COVID-19 relief, including the temporary expansion of eligibility for SNAP benefits. This is meant to last through the end of the public health emergency.

According to the legislation, states are directed to add two new exemptions to their benefits applications to students who met one of the following requirements:

  • The individual is eligible to participate in a state or federal work study program during the regular school year
  • The individual has an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0 in the current academic year

Thanks to this temporary change, a student only has to be eligible to participate in a work study program and doesn't have to actually participate to qualify.

While these exemptions are now in place, it's important to note that it's a temporary policy. These exceptions will be in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 federal public emergency is lifted.

The benefits available vary by state and depend on household size. Students should contact their local SNAP office to learn more about program requirements and to confirm eligibility.

Unfortunately, some students have had to choose between going to class or work because of food insecurity. Allowing more students to apply for SNAP benefits can make it so that more students can continue their studies without worrying about how they will afford their next meal.

If you're a college student who has been struggling financially throughout the pandemic, there is help available as you navigate this challenging time. Take a look at our coronavirus resources to learn more about other programs and aid that may be available to you. And remember that you're not alone in your struggles. If you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.

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