Expanded SNAP Eligibility for Students
Recent changes in SNAP policy have expanded SNAP eligibility to thousands of low-income NYS students.
Criteria to Be Considered an “Eligible Student” Under SNAP Rules
When working with students who are applying for SNAP you must first determine if they meet the criteria to be considered an “eligible student” under SNAP rules. Generally, students are only eligible for SNAP if they meet certain “exemptions” listed in SNAP eligibility rules.
Under these rules, students who are 18 to 49 years old and enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher learning cannot get SNAP unless they meet an exemption. Exemptions include: working at least 20 hours per week, caring for a child, and being unable to work, among others.
Please note that there are additional SNAP income and eligibility rules that all SNAP applicants, including students, must meet in order to qualify to receive a SNAP benefit each month.
See our SNAP Prescreening Guide pages 30 – 31 for full eligibility rules for students and for more information on the income and eligibility rules for all SNAP applicants.
Additionally, students determined to be an “eligible student” under SNAP rules are exempt from:
- SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) work requirements, and
- SNAP Time Limit Rules for ABAWD’s (currently suspended until September 30, 2021)
New policies that expand student exemptions are explained in detail below.
New Permanent Rule: Expansion for Students in Qualified Career and Technical Education Programs
As of October 1, 2020, a SNAP policy change in NYS expanded eligibility to students in qualified career and technical education (CTE) programs. The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has determined that CTE programs, as defined under the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, offered at a community college, comprehensive college or a technology college within the SUNY or CUNY systems are considered comparable to a SNAP E&T program component. CTE programs at SUNY/CUNY enhance the employability of students or lead directly to employment. In 2019, SUNY surveyed community college students on food access and found that 55% of students had experienced hunger in the current semester.
New York State students can also enroll in CTE programs at Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC). These programs specifically target economically disadvantaged students.
Under the new permanent rule, individuals attending a SUNY/CUNY community college, comprehensive college, or technology college and enrolled at least half-time in a qualified CTE program meet the criteria to be considered an “eligible student” for SNAP.
Additionally, individuals attending any of the 10 EOCs in New York State and enrolled at least half-time in CTE programs, remedial courses, basic adult education, literacy, or English as a second language meet the criteria to be considered an “eligible student” for SNAP.
Both groups of students were not considered “eligible students” under previous SNAP rules and are expected to benefit greatly from this new policy.
Note: This rule does not apply to students in four-year degree programs at SUNY/CUNY universities or colleges. However, these students may be eligible for SNAP under other student exemptions. For the full list of student exemptions, see our SNAP Prescreening Guide.
Determining Eligibility for CTE Students
Students meeting the criteria below are to be considered an “eligible student” under SNAP rules.
- Attending a SUNY/CUNY community college, comprehensive college or technology college and enrolled in a qualified certificate or degree CTE program.
- Attending an EOC and enrolled in a CTE program, or enrolled in remedial courses, basic adult education, literacy, or English as a second language program.
SNAP offices will need to review and discuss the student exemption requirements during the eligibility interview.
Students must provide proof to the SNAP office that they meet one of the exemptions above. The following documents are acceptable:
- LDSS-5172 SUNY/CUNY/EOC Student Verification of Enrollment,
- Signed letter from a SUNY, CUNY or EOC official,
- Electronic signatures from the college or EOC on the above form are acceptable.
- Any documentation that reasonably provides proof that the student meets this exemption, and includes:
- Enrollment status;
- Course of study or major; and,
- Whether or not the student is enrolled in a qualified CTE or EOC program.
Students who need assistance getting signed documentation from their college or EOC should contact the Office of the Registrar at their college or the Perkins Officer at their EOC.
CUNY.edu/SNAP: CUNY launched this page to help CUNY students understand SNAP eligibility rules. It includes an FAQ for students, a list of eligible CTE classes offered at 10 CUNY colleges, an automated form to verify enrollment in a CTE Program and much more.
Educational Opportunity Centers: A list and map of the 10 EOCs and more
New Temporary Rule: Expanded SNAP Eligibility for Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, signed into law on December 27, 2020, provides funding for nutrition assistance and investments in SNAP that address the rising hunger crisis associated with the pandemic and economic downturn.
The Act temporarily expands SNAP eligibility for students enrolled at least half time in an institution of higher education. These temporary student exemptions remain in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 federal public health emergency is lifted.
Temporary Exemptions During the COVID-19 Pandemic
First, the Act amends an existing work-study exemption, which states that students actively participating in a state or federal work study are considered an “eligible student” for SNAP. The Act allows all students who are eligible to participate in a work-study, whether or not the student is actively employed or participating in work-study, to now meet this exemption.
Second, the Act offers a new exemption for students:
- A student is found to be an “eligible student” for SNAP if they have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0 in the current academic year under federal student financial aid rules (determination under the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that is used to calculate the amount of federal Pell Grants and other aid for a which a student qualifies).
Students must provide proof to the SNAP office that they meet any of the above exemptions. More information about acceptable documentation will be shared as it becomes available.
These student exemptions will remain in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 federal public health emergency is lifted:
- SNAP applications received 30 days after the COVID-19 federal public health emergency is lifted will be processed under the normal student eligibility rules.
- SNAP Recertifications due 30 days after the COVID-19 federal health emergency is lifted will be processed under the normal student eligibility rules.
Students granted one of these temporary exemptions, and meeting all other SNAP income and eligibility rules, will remain eligible for SNAP until their next recertification even if the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends during their certification period.
Check back here for more details as they become available.
Stay up to date
Get the latest news, action alerts, press releases, and hunger research delivered to your inbox.