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What if I am a college student?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2023

Special SNAP eligibility rules apply to college students who are between the ages of 18 and 49  and enrolled half-time or more in a post-secondary institution (a college that requires students to have a high school diploma or GED to enroll). Most colleges consider half-time as typically two courses, 6 to 11 credits and full-time as typically 12 credits or more.

COVID 19 Note: As of March 2023, the public health emergency is still in effect. The special student exemptions below are still in effect. We will update the Guide as this policy changes.  

While the student rules sound complicated, many students are SNAP eligible, in Massachusetts!

You may qualify for SNAP benefits while in college if you are low-income and meet any of the following:

  • you have a $0 Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on your financial aid application (FAFSA) – special rule during the pandemic.
  • you received a maximum Pell Grant or you were awarded federal work study, even if no work study job is available – special rule during pandemic
  • you attend a community college in Massachusetts or another state
  • you attend the Ben Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology or Quincy College (a municipal college)
  • you are enrolled in an adult career and technical education program (many offered by Voc/Tech high schools), or you are in a program that does not require a GED or high school degree– such as Adult Basic Ed and English for Second Language Learners
  • you receive a MASSGrant as part of your financial aid package. 
  • you have a work study job (any hours of work), or your college awarded you work-study and you plan to accept a job if offered during the school year
  • you are in college as part of a DTA-approved SNAP education or training activity or another government-sponsored education and training program,
  • you care for a child living with you who is under age 6, or a child age 6 to age 12 and​
    •  either you are a single parent, enrolled full time, or you lack childcare to both attend school and work part-time.
    • you receive TAFDC benefits (DTA cash if you are pregnant or parenting a minor child)
    • you receive a disability-based benefit such as Social Security or SSI, EAEDC cash benefits, Veterans or MassHealth as disabled,  
    • you have an impairment or disability that impacts your ability to both attend college and work 20 hours/week (the SNAP rules refer to being “physically or mentally unfit to work and attend school)
    • you are enrolled in college through the Mass Rehab Commission or a mental health or substance abuse rehabilitation program.
    • you are working (non-work study job) an average of 20 hours a week or more, or an average of 80 hours/month.
      See 106 C.M.R.§§362.400 through 362.420 

 

Students on summer break/vacation

You are still SNAP eligible while on summer or vacation break as long as you are enrolled for the upcoming term. You are no longer considered “continuously enrolled” once you graduate, are suspended, expelled, drop out, or you are planning to enroll in college in the coming months but the term has not started yet. See language in the SNAP rules re being “continuously enrolled.” 106 C.M.R. §362.420.

Students living with spouse or parents

If you live with your parents and you are under age 22, you must be part of their SNAP household, even if you purchase and prepare your own food separately. If you are married and live with your spouse, you must be together in a SNAP household. See Who cannot be a separate SNAP household?

Students with meal plans

If you live on campus and get most (more than 2/3) of your meals through your meal plan, you do not qualify for SNAP. However, you may be eligible for SNAP when you are home during summer break if your family also gets SNAP, assuming you meet the other student status rules.  

How SNAP treats financial aid and loans

There are specific SNAP rules do not count any financial aid in calculated your SNAP benefits. This includes federal, state, local and private financial aid. It includes loans, grants, scholarships, stipends and work study. 

Verifying college student information

You can tell DTA in writing or verbally (for example, by phone) where you attend school and which of the above rules you meet. DTA should not ask for any proof of your student status unless the information you give them is found “questionable.” See What if DTA does not accept the proofs I sent them?

Example:

 

Terry applies for SNAP over the phone with DTA and sends in proof of his identity and resident. He tells the worker he is a Roxbury Community College student. DTA accepts his verbal statement and does not ask for any proof documents

For more information, including Know Your Rights fliers and SNAP outreach fliers and infographics on SNAP for students see: Masslegalservices.org/Food4Students

DTA Online Guide: See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON 5 Online Guide for this section.

 

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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