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Can College Students Get Food Stamps?

Can College Students Get Food Stamps?

Here at Low Income Relief, we hear this question a lot: Can college students get food stamps? The answer may surprise you! While some college students have always been eligible for food stamps, more students have become eligible as part of COVID relief efforts. Read on for more information about whether you, or a college student in your life, are eligible for food stamps.


Can college students get food stamps?

Can college students get food stamps? The short answer is…It depends. 

Whether or not college students can get food stamps is based on a range of factors. Traditionally, it was that only college students who met certain requirements could receive food stamps. We have listed those requirements under the next heading. 

Congress was concerned that since SNAP eligibility is based primarily on income, that college students from middle class or wealthy families living in college dorms would take advantage of SNAP. Technically, they often have very little income of their own, so without additional obstacles to access, many of them would be eligible. This is why college students have historically been excluded from receiving food stamps. 

However, in addition to the existing exemptions to the rule, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 has expanded eligibility to a wider range of students across the U.S. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was designed to relieve some of the economic impact brought on by the pandemic. 


Which college students can get food stamps?

First, it’s important to remember that even if a college student falls into one of the following categories, they must also still meet the income threshold for SNAP eligibility. The income threshold is typically 130% of the poverty line.

That said, if you are a college student and one or more of the following conditions apply, you may be eligible for food stamps. These are the baseline conditions exempting students from the SNAP college student exclusion, and are likely to remain in place regardless of what happens to the recent temporary expansion of SNAP eligibility. 

  • You are older than 50 or younger than 18 years old
  • You are unable to work due to disability
  • You are a parent or caregiver to a child under the age of 6 (not limited to single parents and caregivers)
  • You are a single parent of a child under the age of 12
  • You receive federal work study funding
  • You do not receive federal work study funding, but you work 20 or more hours per week
  • You receive TANF benefits

More details and additional exemption criteria can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 expanded eligibility to include students who meet one of the two following criteria. Please note that this is a temporary loosening of restrictions, which will probably end with the emergency phase of the pandemic. 

  • You are eligible to receive federal work study (but you may or may not work) 
  • Your “expected family contribution” is $0. The expected family contribution is a number determined on the FAFSA form that you and/or your family fill out to determine financial aid eligibility. 
group of four college students sitting around a cafe table in article on can college students get food stamps?

How can college students apply for food stamps?

If you are interested in applying for food stamps, you must apply in the state where you live. If you are not sure whether you’re eligible, it is worth speaking to someone in your local SNAP office. 

The process for college students applying for food stamps is generally the same as everyone else, and Low Income Relief’s comprehensive guide is a great place to start if you’re not sure what to do. 

It is important to note that if you are applying for food stamps under the temporary Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, you will need to show additional documentation to demonstrate that you fall into the new eligibility categories. That documentation might include: 

  • A copy of your financial aid award letter to show that you are eligible for work study
  • A copy of your financial aid award letter or your Student Aid Report to show that you have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0
  • A letter from your school indicating that you have an EFC of 0 or that you are eligible for work study

So, can college students get food stamps? As it stands, many students can. Contact your local SNAP office to find out if you’re eligible!

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