In response to the growing concern of escalating food insecurity among college students, the state of Pennsylvania has temporarily expanded the eligibility criteria for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). This expansion will facilitate the inclusion of specific college students who meet family income requirements, but would not typically be deemed eligible due to their student status under normal circumstances.
Federal regulations ordering eligibility have determined that students aged between 18 and 49, who are enrolled at least part-time in a university institution, may not access the SNAP program unless they meet specific exceptions. These exceptions comprehend scenarios such as maintaining employment averaging 20 hours or more per week, engaging in a state or federally supported work and study program, having a disability, or being a parent to a child under six years old. Students residing in households with parents meeting the requirements and receiving SNAP benefits will not be considered part of the household unit, unless they fulfill one of the aforementioned exemption conditions.
Food Stamps for students in Pennsylvania: Now you could qualify thanks to the new expansions
In most cases, college students who are enrolled at least half-time are not eligible for SNAP benefits unless they meet the criteria for existing waivers from the work requirement. These waivers take into account various factors, including the student’s enrollment status, income, caregiving responsibilities, age, disability, and more.
With this new flexibility, a student participating in specific programs will qualify for the new exemption if that program:
- Serves students from households in vulnerable economic situation;
- Is currently operated by a state or local government, or an affiliate instrument;
- Provides the equivalent of at least one allowable activity under SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) criteria.
One notable restriction is that, for a college student to be approved to receive SNAP benefits, they must not be enrolled in any meal plan, or meal plan that provides more than 10 meals per week over the course of a semester. You must also meet the normal SNAP eligibility requirements, such as income limits.
How to apply for food stamps if you’re a college student in Pennsylvania
Applications for public assistance programs such as SNAP can be submitted online at the official website dhs.pa.gov/COMPASS, or you can call the Consumer Service Center at 1-866-550-4355.
Universities can also seek approval for an employment and training initiative by fulfilling the requirements outlined in the SNAP College Program Checklist.
“We know that college students are juggling a lot of expenses while investing in their futures. Worrying about how to meet one of their most basic needs should not be one of them,” said DHS Secretary Val Arkoosh. “
I am proud that the Shapiro Administration has added this new eligibility option to SNAP so that college students who are focusing on their employability after graduation can get help meeting their basic needs right now. I encourage higher education institutions across the Commonwealth to review the criteria for this new flexibility and apply for program certification as soon as possible, so we can help students who may be struggling with schooling and personal costs.”