Upcoming changes to eligibility requirements for federal food stamps could further restrict a process that already confounds the most needy college students.
Upcoming changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal food stamp program, are expected to affect nearly 700,000 Americans.
College students — among the neediest — will be among them.
Some higher education policy experts argue that it’s already complicated for students to decipher whether they qualify for public benefits, and the rule change from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, scheduled to take place in April will only make matters more difficult.
Students who are enrolled at least half-time wouldn’t be affected by the rule change, but those who are enrolled less than half-time could lose access to the benefits. These students are subject to time limits, meaning they can’t receive benefits for more than three months during a three-year period unless they work at least 20 hours per week. States can waive the time limit when unemployment is high, but this change would make that more difficult.
For example, Pennsylvania lets students count taking college classes toward the work requirements, according to Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Access Network. It’s unclear if that waiver will be allowed once the rule change is implemented.