- Colleges should immediately reach out to students who qualify for federal food benefits and help them enroll before the program’s COVID-19 expansion expires, according to new guidance issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.
- During the pandemic, emergency government assistance opened the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to all college students enrolled at least half-time who were eligible for work-study programs or had an expected family contribution of $0.
- The Department of Education is now urging postsecondary institutions to connect their students to SNAP resources before the expansion ends in the coming weeks.
Under normal circumstances, college students are ineligible for SNAP by default and must demonstrate eligibility through a complex list of qualifications. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 dramatically simplified the rules during the COVID-19 crisis and bypassed many of the hoops that students traditionally had to jump through.
Researchers found that the complexity of the standard SNAP application leads to eligible students support is missing. One study also found that students are food insecure he performed worse in class than their counterparts.
While many advocates advocated extensions from the times of the pandemic, which are supposed to be permanentthe proposal lacked legislative support.
The public health emergency that allows the expansion will end on May 11. However, state agencies must process the first SNAP applications received by June 9 under the expanded coverage, according to the Department of Education. Recertification applications for students whose SNAP benefits end in April-June will also be accepted through June 30.
Under the new guidelines, colleges should organize a targeted outreach campaign to inform eligible students about upcoming SNAP changes and help them apply — or reapply — before time runs out.
The Department supported the use of Free Application for Federal Student Aid data in student outreach and application support. FAFSA forms show students’ work-study eligibility and expected family contribution, a metric that will be replaced beginning in the 2024-25 academic year.
In addition, colleges should review their student work policies to ensure they are consistent with traditional SNAP requirements, according to the guidelines. One way students can gain eligibility is by enrolling in a work-study program. But even with eligibility, students are not guaranteed a place to work and study.