Pennsylvania officials announced on Monday that requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food assistance to low-income families, have been lowered as part of efforts to help college students at four-year institutions cope with the pandemic.
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Human Services, Teresa Miller, highlighted the necessity of this new policy for first-generation college students, single parents, and other communities struggling to put food on the table as they pursue their education.
Temporary COVID-19 Assistance
The new qualifications state that students should have an expected family contribution of $0 for the current academic year on their federal financial aid forms and that they must be work-study eligible — but not necessarily working.
The website states that these temporary exemptions “will be in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.” These are the same criteria followed by students at community colleges, thanks to a 2018 policy change.
Prior to this change, students had to participate in state or federally-funded work-study programs to be deemed eligible. It was difficult for many students to access because part of the criteria included having to work 20 hours a week on top of attending classes.
Helping Students Stay in School
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of undergraduates has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. This growth has been fueled largely by an influx of students from low-income families and students of color.
These new rules give students who live at home the opportunity to help their entire household secure food, as they can be added to their family’s claim if they are under 22 years of age.
It also has the potential to aid enrollment rates at higher education institutions, as initial data from the National Student Clearinghouse indicate that postsecondary enrollment as a whole dropped by 1.8 percent in the fall of 2020 in comparison to the previous year.