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What if I am a college student?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

Special SNAP eligibility rules apply to college students who are enrolled half-time or more. Half-time is typically two courses or 6 to 11 credits. Full-time is typically 12 credits or more. Students must meet additional criteria to be SNAP eligible by themselves or within a household.

The additional SNAP eligibility criteria  applies if you are a student between the age of 18 and 50 and enrolled at least half-time in is an associates or bachelor degree program that requires a high school diploma (HiSET) or GED. 

If the additional SNAP eligibility criteria apply to you, you may qualify for SNAP if you meet at least one of the following: 

 

Eligible college students

If you are a low-income college student enrolled at least half-time or more, you may qualify for SNAP – on your own or part of your parent’s household – if you meet any one or more of the following:

  • 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 attending a community college and pursuing a 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 (or certain other types of state-funded financial aid grants) 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 doing one during school term (for any amount of work-study hours); 
  • you are working for pay an average of 20 hours a week or more (an average of 80 hours/month);
  • 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 benefits
  • 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.  

The SNAP regulations at 106 C.M.R. §§ 362.400-362.420 lists the conditions or “exemptions” that qualify college students.

Example 1: 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 single parent with a child under age 12.

Example 2: George is a full-time college student with no dependents. He has a work-study job on campus for 10 hours a week. George meets the SNAP rules for college students because he is doing work-study. He does not need to work 20 hours per week.

Example 3: Suzy is majoring in nursing at Bunker Hill Community College. Because she is in a public college and in a program that leads to employment, she meets the student rules. 

Example 4: Betsy is a full-time student at UMass Boston. She has been unable to find work while going to school, but her family is low-income and Betsy receives MassGrant financial aid from the Mass Department of Higher Education. She meets the student rules.

Note: 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).

MA 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:

  • A students associate’s degree or certificate programs that the community 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
  • A course of study that the college believes makes the student more employable. 106 CMR 362.410(F)(3).

If your course of study falls under either option, you do not need to find a work study job, work 20 hours a week or meet the other student criteria to qualify for SNAP. You only need to give DTA a document signed by an official at the community college that confirms either option. Appendix C includes the DTA Community College Verification form used to verify eligibility for students in community colleges

What if I live with my parents or my spouse?

If you live with your parents and you are under age 22, you must be part of their SNAP household if you meet the student eligibility rules, and even if you purchase and prepare food separately. See What if DTA questions the proofs I sent them or demands more proofs?. The same is true if you are legally married and live with your spouse.

What if I have a mean plan on campus?

If you live on campus and get most of your meals through your meal plan, you do not qualify for SNAP.

How does DTA treat my student grants and loans

There are specific SNAP rules on how educational income is counted for eligible college students. It is important to remember the following:

  • Federal loans, grants and work-study are “excluded” or non-countable income for SNAP purposes.106 C.M.R. § 363.230(D). This includes Pell Grants, FSEOG, federal college work study, Perkins Loans and other student financial aid from programs administered under Title IV of the federal Higher Education Act.
  • Private and state grants, private loans and state work-study monies do count—but only the amount that is earmarked or designated for your basic living expenses counts in calculating SNAP benefits (e.g., the amount that the loan exceeds your tuition, fees, books, supplies, child care and other earmarked educational expenses).  106 C.M.R. § 363.230(D)(4).
  • If you do have 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?. Non-countable income does not need to be verified.

How do I verify my financial aid award?

DTA uses an “Educational Income and Expense Form” (EDUC-1). See Appendix C.  The EDUC-1 is also used to confirm if you get Work Study, a MASSGrant or other state grants that may make you SNAP eligible. By signing this form, you give permission for your college to give information to DTA about your financial aid. 

This EDUC-1 form is supposed to make it easier for your college to report any non-federal financial aid you receive whether e if any of it is designated for your living expenses. If you have trouble getting this EDUC-1 form filled out, or providing other information that confirms your financial aid award, contact an advocate. 

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections: SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Students >  Students
Additional Guidance
  • Students who receive MassGrant financial aid are receiving a “TANF-funded benefit” and are SNAP eligible. OLG Transmittal 2017-52 (Aug. 25, 2017).

  • College students are considered continuously enrolled during holiday and summer vacations, unemployed college student not receiving work-study may not be SNAP eligible; earnings of ineligible student not count to SNAP household but do count where student becomes SNAP eligible if work hours increase to 20 hours/week. Transitions Hotline Q&A (June 2014)

  • VA educational benefits excluded as income if VA grant or scholarship precludes use for current living costs. Transitions Hotline Q#5 (May 2013)

  • Guidance on college students living with others - ineligible college student are “non-household members” and their income does not count toward SNAP household. Transitions Hotline Q&A (July 2009)
  • Work hours of employed students should be averaged over the month to get a weekly average (for students eligible claiming 20 hours/week average work) F.O. Memo 2007-44 (Aug. 30, 2007)
  • Once student turns 22, he/she can be own SNAP household even if living with parents as long as adult child  purchases and prepares separately; participation in school meal plan does not disqualify student if meal plan  not provide “majority of meals.” Only one parent in a 2-parent household can claim responsibility to care for a young child to meet student rules. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Nov. 2006)

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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