To get SNAP benefits, you must apply in the state in which you currently live and you must meet certain requirements, including resource and income limits.
Most SNAP eligibility rules apply to all households, but there are some special rules for students attending an institution of higher education that are described here. If you are not a student, you should read the general SNAP eligibility rules.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 temporarily expanded student eligibility to new groups from January 16, 2021 through the end of the public health emergency.
The new, temporary change to student eligibility means that certain students who were not eligible for SNAP before may now be eligible. See below for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Are students eligible for SNAP?
Generally, students attending an institution of higher education (i.e., college, university, trade/technical school) more than half-time are not eligible for SNAP unless they meet an exemption. The institution of higher education determines what is considered ‘half-time’ enrollment. Students who meet an exemption must also meet all other SNAP eligibility requirements.
- Who counts as a student for SNAP purposes?
You are considered a student if you are enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education. If you are enrolled less than half-time, you may be SNAP-eligible if you meet all other SNAP eligibility requirements. The number of hours considered as half-time enrollment is determined by the institution of higher education.
- What is considered an institution of higher education?
For SNAP purposes, you are attending an institution of higher education if you are enrolled in:
- A regular curriculum at a college or university degree program; or
- A business, technical, trade, or vocational school that normally requires a high school diploma or equivalent (GED).
- What is considered at least half-time enrollment?
The institution of higher education determines what is considered half-time enrollment. Your college, university, or school can tell you your enrollment status.
- What are the student exemptions for SNAP?
If you are a student and you meet SNAP eligibility requirements, you may be eligible for SNAP if you meet one of the following exemptions:
- Are under age 18 or are age 50 or older.
- Have a physical or mental disability.
- Work at least 20 hours a week in paid employment.
- Participate in a state or federally financed work study program.
- Participate in an on-the-job training program.
- Care for a child under the age of 6.
- Care for a child age 6 to 11 and lack the necessary child care enabling you to attend school and work 20 hours a week or participate in work study.
- Are a single parent enrolled full-time in college and taking care of a child under 12.
- Receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance.
- Are enrolled in a TANF Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program.
- Are assigned to, placed in, or self-placed in a college or other institution of higher education through:
- A SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) program;
- Certain other E&T programs for low-income households, which are operated by a state or local government and have an equivalent component to SNAP E&T;
- A program under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) (PL 113-128);
- A Trade Adjustment Assistance Program under Section 236 of the Trade Act of 1974.
- Meet one of the new, temporary exemptions listed under Covid-19 Temporary Updates.
If you are not sure whether you meet one of the exemptions, contact your local SNAP office to find out how these exemptions may apply to your household circumstances.
COVID-19 Temporary Update
- The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 temporarily expands SNAP eligibility for certain types of students. What do you need to know about the new, temporary student exemptions?
In general, students enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education (e.g., college, university, trade/technical school) are not eligible for SNAP unless they meet certain exemptions. The institution of higher education determines what is considered half-time enrollment.
Beginning Jan. 16, 2021, two new types are now exempt. These are students who:
- Are eligible to participate in state or federally financed work study during the regular school year. The institution of higher education (i.e., the college or university) determines if a student is considered eligible for work study.
- Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0 in the current academic year. Students receive an EFC after applying for financial aid.
Now students who meet one of the two criteria outlined above – or any of the traditional criteria outlined in the Frequently Asked Questions – may receive SNAP benefits if they meet all other SNAP eligibility criteria.
- How long will these temporary exemptions be in effect?
The new, temporary exemptions will be in effect until 30 days after the federal government lifts the official designation of the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency. FNS will update this webpage when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
- How are these exemptions different from SNAP regular rules?
Under regular SNAP rules, only students who actually participate in State or Federally funded work study are eligible to receive SNAP benefits. The new, temporary exemption expands SNAP eligibility to students who are eligible to participate in work study during the regular school year, without the requirement that they actually participate in work study. The college or university determines if a student is considered eligible for work study.
Students with an EFC of 0 is a new exemption.
- How do you know if you have an EFC of 0?
You receive an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) after applying for financial aid. Your EFC is a number calculated using information you report on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Your school uses your EFC to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. Your EFC is not the amount of money your family pays for your tuition, nor the amount of federal aid you receive. For more information about how EFC is calculated, visit StudentAid.gov.
There are several ways to check if you have an EFC of 0. You can find your EFC on your financial award letter from your school or your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is mailed or emailed to you when you complete the FAFSA. If you do not have copies of these documents, you can ask your school.
All students receiving the maximum Pell Grant for their enrollment status have an EFC of 0. However, there may be students that have an EFC of 0, but do not receive the maximum Pell Grant. Ask your school to confirm your EFC of 0 if you do not receive the maximum Pell Grant.
- What do you need to do to show that you meet a temporary exemption?
If you decide to apply for SNAP, your State SNAP agency may ask you for a document to show that you meet a student exemption. To show that you meet one of the new, temporary exemptions:
- You can provide a copy of your financial aid award letter to show that you are eligible for work study.
- You can provide a copy of your financial aid award letter or your Student Aid Report to show that you have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0.
- You can provide a letter from your school indicating that you have an EFC of 0 or that you are eligible for work study.
- You can request for your school to provide a letter or communicate this information to your state SNAP agency.
Your local SNAP office can help you if you have trouble getting these documents.
- Do these temporary exemptions impact other SNAP student exemptions?
The new, temporary exemptions do not impact any other student exemptions (see “What are the student exemptions for SNAP?”). All current student eligibility exemptions remain in effect.
- Where can you find more information?