Colleges Should Help Students Apply for SNAP: Education Department

As the United States' public health emergency ends, Department of Education officials want colleges to step up efforts in helping students apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
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Published on April 5, 2023
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  • Expanded student eligibility for SNAP benefits is set to end in June following the expiration of the United States' public health emergency.
  • Students who attend college at least half time are eligible for SNAP under specific exemptions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service.
  • Colleges should increase outreach to ensure eligible students keep their benefits, according to U.S. Department of Education guidance.

With expanded student food assistance eligibility set to end soon after the United States' public health emergency expires this spring, the Department of Education (ED) is asking colleges to step up outreach to ensure eligible students stay with the program.

Students who attend college at least half time are eligible for SNAP under specific exemptions, according to the Food and Nutrition Service, but Congress authorized a pair of temporary new exemptions for college students in 2021, BestColleges previously reported.

Under those exemptions, which are set to expire 30 days after the public health emergency ends May 11, students can qualify for SNAP if they are eligible for state or federal work-study programs, even if they don't participate, and if they have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0 when applying for financial aid.

With those emergency exemptions set to end, ED last week issued guidance that colleges "should conduct immediate and targeted outreach to their students enrolled at least half-time who are either eligible for work study or have an EFC of 0 and provide them with information about SNAP and assistance applying."

And although the temporary exemptions end for new applicants after June 9, students might be able to qualify for the program if they apply before then, according to the guidance.

"Students applying for SNAP for the first time may qualify under the temporary exemptions if

they submit their SNAP application to their SNAP State agency on or before June 9, 2023," the guidance reads.

Colleges "should also support students enrolled at least half-time who are already participating in SNAP to submit a recertification application prior to July 1, 2023, if their SNAP certification period ends in April, May, or June."

State SNAP agencies will use only existing exemptions after those temporarily expanded exemptions end June 9, according to the guidance.

SNAP benefits returned to pre-pandemic levels in March. Emergency allotments allowed households receiving SNAP benefits to receive an additional $95, or "an additional benefit valued up to the maximum benefit for their household size, whichever value is greater," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

About a third of college students experience food insecurity at some point in their education, Mark Huelsman, director of policy and advocacy at Temple University's Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, previously told BestColleges.

"If students can't afford food or other basic needs, they're far less likely to succeed in school and much more likely to drop out," Huelsman said.