What if I am a college student?

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.  In the meantime, you can read or download a pdf of the 2023 guide from www.masslegalservices.org/FoodStampSNAPAdvocacyGuide

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

Special SNAP eligibility rules apply to college students between the ages of 18 and 49 who are enrolled half-time or more in a course of study that requires a high school diploma (HiSET) or GED. Half-time is typically two courses or 6 to 11 credits. Full-time is typically 12 credits or more.

To be SNAP eligible, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

■ you are attending a community college and pursuing an associate’s degree or certificate program that is in a career or technical education field or the college agrees will increase your employability,

■ you receive a MASSGrant from the Mass Department of Higher Education,

■ you have a federal work-study grant and you are doing a work-study job or you anticipate having a work study job at some point during school term,

■ you are working for pay an average of 20 hours a week or more (an average of 80 hours/month),

■ you are going to college as part of a DTA-approved SNAP education or training activity or another government-sponsored education and training program,

■ you are enrolled in a college program that does not require a HiSet or GED – such as Adult Basic Ed, English as a second language (ESL) or a certificate program that does not require a HiSET or GED,

■ you care for a child living with you who is under age 6, or you care for a child living with you under age 12 and you do not have enough child care coverage to attend school and work 20 hours/participate in work study,

■ you are a single parent, you are a full time student and you care for a child under age 12,

■ you receive TAFDC cash benefit,

■ you are disabled and receive disability-based benefits such as Social Security or SSI, EAEDC, Veterans or MassHealth as disabled,

■ you are “physically or mentally unfit for employment”- meaning a health care provider verifies that you have a condition which reduces your ability to support yourself, or

■ you are placed in a post-secondary program through the Mass Rehabilitation Commission or a mental health or substance abuse rehabilitation program (typically based on disability).

Examples of eligible college students

  • Jane is a single parent and a full-time college student with one child, age 10. Jane qualifies for SNAP as a college student because she is a full-time student and single parent with a child under age 12.
  • George is a full-time college with an on-campus Work-Study job 5-10 hours a week. George meets the SNAP rules for college students because he is doing Work-Study.
  • Suzy is majoring in accounting at Bunker Hill Community College. Because she attends a community college and is enrolled in a program that will lead to employment, Suzy meets the student rules.
  • Betsy is a full-time student at UMass Boston. She has been unable to find work while going to school. Betsy’s family is low-income and she receives MASSGrant financial aid from the Mass Department of Higher Education. Betsy meets the student rules.

College student rules, see 106 C.M.R.§§362.400 through 362.420


If you are attending college less than half-time (for example, one class per semester), you do not need to meet the student rules to get SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R.§362.400(A). However, if you are exempt, you may be subject to the ABAWD time limits. See What is the “ABAWD” 3-month time limit for childless adults age 18 to 50? and Who is exempt from the 3-month ABAWD time limit?

Community College students

DTA has special rules that allow many MA low-income community college students to qualify for SNAP if they are enrolled in either:

  • An associate’s degree or certificate program that the college considers a “career or technical education program,” as defined under the federal Carl D. Perkins Act (most community college certificate and associates degrees fit this definition), or

DTA will send you a Community College Verification form to get signed that verifies you are an eligible student. See example in Appendix C.

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

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 part of their 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 on how educational income is counted for eligible college students:
■ Federal loans, grants and work-study are non-countable income for SNAP. 106 C.M.R.§363.230(D). This includes:

  • Pell Grants
  • federal work study
  • Perkins Loans
  • Other student financial aid from programs administered under Title IV of the federal Higher Education Act.
  • VA benefits used for educational expenses.

■ State and private grants and loans currently count as income for SNAP if the financial aid is available and designated to meet your basic living expenses (defined as room and board). 106 C.M.R.§363.230(D)(4). State and private financial aid does NOT count as income if designated to meet your educational expenses (tuition, fees, supplies, etc.).

■ If you have state or private loans or grants designated for basic living expenses, DTA will average the amount of countable income over the course of the academic year or semester, even if you received the money in a lump sum. 106 C.M.R.§364.340(A)(2).
For more information on the income counting rules and what is countable or non-countable, see What income is not counted? and What is earned income?

DTA will send you a form, called an “Educational Income and Expense Form” (EDUC-1). See Appendix C. The EDUC-1 needs to be filled out by the financial aid office. The purpose of the form is to determine if any state or private financial aid is available for your basic living expenses (room and board).
If none of your non-federal financial aid is used for basic living expenses, the financial aid office should check NO on the form.

Advocacy Reminders

  • If you are an ineligible college student and have income, none of your income should be counted against the eligible SNAP household members you live with. 106 C.M.R.§361.230(B)(C)
  • Advocates have urged DTA to amend its SNAP policy to treat state/private financial aid the same as federal financial aid and not count it. If you see students whose state financial aid is counted toward their SNAP or TAFC cases, please contact MLRI.
  • For more information, including an MLRI Know Your Rights fliers for Community College and 4 year school students, go to: Masslegalservices.org/Food4Students

DTA Online Guide Sections:SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Students > Students

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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