College is stressful and expensive. Don’t let food be another financial worry. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP” (formerly called Food Stamps) helps many low income people buy food. As a low income college student, you may be eligible.
Am I eligible for SNAP?
If you are in college more than half-time, you may qualify for SNAP/Food Stamps if you meet any one of the conditions below:
- You receive (any amount of) federal or state work-study funding,
- You work for pay for 20 hours or more per week,
- You care for a child under the age of 12 or you get TAFDC,
- You participate in a SNAP or other 'employment and training program',
- You attend a Mass. community college and are enrolled in a credit degree or certificate program that increase the chances of your getting a job,
- You are age 50 or older, or you are under age 18, or
- You have a temporary or permanent physical and/or mental impairment.
How do I get SNAP?
- Step ONE: Apply online at www.mass.gov/snap or in person at your local DTA office.
- Step TWO: DTA will interview you (usually by phone) to ask more information.
- Step THREE: DTA will ask for proofs of identity (who you are), your address, income and other items. DTA has 30 days to determine your eligibility, unless you need them right away. Benefits will be delivered monthly via an electronic benefit card (EBT) account.
What proofs will I need to meet the SNAP student rules?
- To prove you receive work-study, give DTA a copy of your financial aid statement or any other proof of federal or state funded work-study. You qualify as a work-study recipient whether you attend a public or private college.
- To prove you are enrolled in a community college career or technical education program that will lead to employment, DTA has a one-page form which the college registrar or financial aid office can fill out. You can also get a letter from the college that states you are enrolled and that your degree or certificate program will lead to employment.
- To prove you are working 20 hours a week or more, bring wage stubs. Other proofs may be asked as well.
How much in SNAP benefits will I receive?
The monthly SNAP benefit is based on your income and expenses and calculated according to a standard “thrifty” food monthly budget. The maximum for one person (living alone, with little or no income) is $200/month.
What do I count as income?
Countable income includes:
- Earned income from a job or self-employment,
- Unearned income such as Social Security, child support, unemployment insurance.
Work study and federal educational monies do not count. Other educational loans and grants do not count if the monies are earmarked for educational expenses (like tuition, fees, books, and supplies).
Deductible expenses include shelter, such as rent & utilities, child care expenses so you can go to school or to work, and child support you pay for a child outside the home.
Can I get SNAP if I live with roommates?
If you buy & prepare more than half of your meals separately from your roommates, you can apply for SNAP for yourself separate from those you share housing with.
If you buy & prepare most of your meals together, you must apply with your roommates; and they must also meet the other SNAP rules and report their income.
Can I get SNAP if I still live with my parents?
If you are 22 or older, and if you buy and prepare more than half your meals separately from your parents, you can get your own SNAP benefits.
If you are younger than 22, you cannot get your own SNAP benefits. Federal SNAP rules require you to be in the same household as your parents if you live with them —even if you barely share meals with them. You & your parents must apply for benefits together and report all family income.
Can I get SNAP if I live in a dorm?
If you live on-campus and get more than half your meals from a meal plan, you cannot get SNAP benefits.
What can I do if I am denied SNAP benefits?
You have the right to talk with your SNAP worker and get more information on why you were denied. You also have the request a fair hearing if you disagree with DTA’s decision. Contact your local Legal Services office for more information on your rights and representation.
To get more information about SNAP in Massachusetts, visit Project Bread’s website.
Download the print-friendly Food Help for Community College Students flier.
Nina is 23 years of age and lives with her disabled mom. She is a full-time student at a local private college. Nina has a financial aid package that includes 10 hours a week of work study. Sometimes she works odd jobs off campus. She buys and prepares a majority of her food separately from her mom.
Nina is an eligible student because she receives work study. Because Nina is over age 22 and shares less than half her meals with her mother, she can be a separate SNAP/food stamp household. To determine her benefits, Nina’s earned income is countable income. Any federal financial aid she receives does not count as income. Her mother’s income does not count because her mother is not part of her SNAP household. Nina’s private or state-funded financial aid or loans count only if available to meet actual living expenses.
Mark is a full-time college student in a health science degree program at a local community college, pre-nursing track. He has no work study. Mark lives off-campus with two other roommates. He buys his own groceries and cooks his own meals. At times, he cooks dinner with his roommates a few times a week, but not all the time.
Mark meets the student eligibility rules because he attends a community college and is enrolled in a career based program (health science). Since Mark buys and prepares more than half of his meals separately from his roommates, he can apply for SNAP for just himself. Any federal financial aid Mark may receive does not count in calculating his benefits. Non-federal financial aid and loans count as income only if available to meet his living expenses.
Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated August 2011