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PA Temporarily Expands SNAP Eligibility For College Students

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Sarah Schneider
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90.5 WESA
A volunteer stocks shelves at the Northside Food Pantry in this 2017 photo.

More Pennsylvania college students are now eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and Department of Education secretaries made the announcement Monday. The temporary changes will expand eligibility to college student who qualify for the program based off their families’ income, but normally would be ineligible for the program because of their student status.  

The federal government dictates that students ages 18-49 who are enrolled at least part time are exempt from receiving benefits unless they work 20 hours a week, participate in a work study program, have a disability, or have a child under six-years-old.

Now under the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 students are eligible for SNAP if:

  • They qualify for a work study program, regardless of whether they are actually participating
  • If they have an estimated family contribution of $0 on their federal student aid determination
  • Students under 22 who live at home with parents will receive a benefit commensurate to their household size

The temporary changes in eligibility will extend through the end of the COVID-19 health emergency, which the Biden administration has said is expected to throughout 2021.
DHS Secretary Teresa Miller says the department is urging Congress to make the eligibility changes permanent.

“Jobs that students would normally work on campuses or around their schools may have reduced hours or are not an option anymore, meaning that students and families with more limited resources may be struggling even more to meet their most essential needs,” Miller said. “In a time when so many are struggling, we are hopeful that this will be another resource that we can extend to families who are feeling this economic strain most acutely.”

A January 2019 report found that nationally at least one in three college students do not always have enough to eat.  

Enrollment in SNAP across Pennsylvania has increase by 4.9% since February 2020.

Applications for SNAP can be found at www.compass.state.pa.us.

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.
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