Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The general rule is that college students are not eligible for SNAP, but there are many exceptions. Students may be eligible for SNAP if they are:
- working 20 hours a week or more;
- receiving federal or state work study;
- caring for a child under age 6;
- caring for a child under age 12 if the student is a single parent in college full time;
- “unfit for work” (that is, have a medical barrier to employment);
- under age 18 or over 50; or
- enrolled less than half time.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers the most common exceptions. For a list of all student exceptions, please see Chapter 514.2 of the PA DHS SNAP Manual online.
Starting in January 2018, many community college students may be eligible for SNAP even if they don’t meet the above exceptions (if they otherwise qualify). The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has issused new guidance expanding SNAP eligibility based on community college students’ participation in programs designed to improve their employability.
Starting in January 2018, Pennsylvania community college students may potentially be eligible for SNAP if they are in either:
- Career or technical education program under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006; or
- Programs associated with high priority occupations. Almost all community college students should be eligible (assuming they apply for SNAP and otherwise qualify).
Students should apply for SNAP, which they can do online or at their local County Assistance Office. They should also submit a copy of the attached form, completed by a college official, with their application or within 30 days of applying.
Students may qualify for SNAP if their monthly income is below $1,608 per month (or more if their household is larger than one person). Student financial aid, including federal or state work study, does not count as income for SNAP purposes.
Any college official with knowledge of the student’s enrollment and course of study can sign the form.
A student’s enrollment begins on the first day of school term. A student’s enrollment ends upon graduation, suspension, expulsion, dropping out, or not intending to register for the next normal school term. A student who was enrolled during the spring term and intends to enrol for the fall term is considered enrolled during summer vacation, even though he or she is not attending college.
Half-time status is determined by the community college.
All students who receive federal or state work study may qualify for SNAP (if otherwise eligible), regardless of their school or course of study. Work study does not count as income in the calculation of how much SNAP the student will receive. Many work study recipients receive the maximum SNAP grant of $192 per month for one person.
The term ‘career and technical education’ means organized education activities that:
- Offer a sequence of courses that:
- Provides individuals with coherent and rigorous content aligned with challenging academic standards and relevant technical knowledge and skills needed to prepare for further education and careers in current or emerging professions.
- Provides technical skill proficiency, and industry-recognized credential, a certificate or an associate degree.
- May include prerequistie courses (other than remedical courses) that meet the requirements of this subparagraph
- Includes competency-based applied learning that contributes to the academic knowledge, higher-order reasoning and problem-solving skills, work attitudes, general employability skills, technical skills, occupation-specific skills, and knowledge of all aspects of an industry, including entrepreneurship, of an individual.
Each Pennsylvania regional Workforce Development Area has created its own list of High Priority Occupations. These are available here.
Students who meet either the Perkins or High Priority Occupations definitions listed above potentially qualify for SNAP. Students whose course of study does not meet one of those definitions can potentially get SNAP if they meet one of the exceptions in #1 above.
The new policy only applies to students at Pennsylvania’s community colleges, because of federal rules allowing for SNAP for participants of certain stare and local programs that enhance employability. Students at other colleges can be potentially get SNAP if they meet one of the exceptions of #1 above.