Is It Wrong to Go on Food Stamps in College?

If you’re a college student on a strict budget, you may have read or heard about getting food stamps for college students. The technical name for food stamps is SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In most states, SNAP benefits are paid through an electronic benefits transfer or EBT card. According to the USDA, which administers the SNAP benefits, college students in general are not considered eligible. It isn’t wrong to get SNAP benefits if you are eligible, and some college students do qualify.

Students Who are Not Eligible

Able-bodied college students with no dependents ages 18-49 aren’t eligible for SNAP benefits if they attend school at least half time, according to the USDA. If you attend college but don’t work, and don’t have any children and are not taking care of an elderly or disabled family member, chances are you will fit in the category the USDA says is not eligible for the benefits.

Exceptions and Eligible Students

With more than half of America’s college students fitting in the “non-traditional” or returning student category, many college students are eligible for food stamps because they fit other eligibility criteria. If you attend college and work at least 20 hours a week, you could be eligible for the benefits. You could also be eligible if you also take care of a dependent household member at least half of the time: this could be a child or a dependent adult who is elderly or disabled. If you are part of a state or federal work-study program, you could also be eligible. If a Workforce Investment Act or other labor and trade-related act is paying for your college, you may also have food stamp eligibility. Finally, any single parent enrolled in college full-time with a child under age 12 is eligible for food stamps regardless of employment status.

Property Limits

There are limits on how much property you can have in order to be eligible for food stamps. A house or land isn’t counted as part of resources and property. Cars and savings accounts are. The general limit on bank account value is $2,250 per household, or $3,250 if one of the household members is over age 60. The value of your car won’t be counted against your eligibility if you have to use it to earn a living or transport an elderly or disabled family member. Otherwise, there are strict limits on the value of cars you can own and still receive food stamps.

Income Limits

Determining whether or not you meet income qualifications for food stamps is a complex process that depends on your expenses as well as the money you receive. If your income comes from public benefits like SSI or TANF, you are automatically eligible for food stamps, with the exception of California, which gives SSI recipients extra cash for food, not food stamps. Your eligibility worker will deduct expenses based on your rent and actual costs of care for dependents and other necessary costs to determine your eligibility.

If you are eligible for food stamp benefits, you should use them. There is nothing wrong with using food stamps for college students. Some colleges even help eligible students to apply and use the benefit effectively.

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