PA opens up food stamp eligibility for college students

15 August 2023- Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today announced that a new flexibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will allow certain college students who meet eligibility requirements to receive SNAP benefits but who traditionally do not qualify because of their status as a student. To qualify for this new flexibility, these students must be enrolled in a qualifying employment and training program.

“We know that college students are juggling a lot of expenses while investing in their futures.  Worrying about how to meet one of their most basic needs should not be one of them,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “I am proud that the Shapiro Administration has added this new eligibility option to SNAP so that college students who are focusing on their employability after graduation can get help meeting their basic needs right now. I encourage higher education institutions across the Commonwealth to review the criteria for this new flexibility and apply for program certification as soon as possible so we can help students who may be struggling with schooling and personal costs.”  

Generally, college students enrolled at least half time are ineligible for SNAP unless they qualify for existing exemptions from a work requirement. Existing exemptions are based on factors such as college enrollment status, income, caregiver status, age, disability, and more. Under this new flexibility, a student enrolled in certain programs meets the new exemption if that program:

  • Primarily serves students from households with low-incomes;  
  • Is operated by a state or local government, or an instrumentality thereof; and,  
  • Provides the equivalent of at least one allowable activity under SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) criteria.  

Colleges can submit a formal request for an employment and training program to be reviewed and approved. To do so, they must complete the SNAP College Program Checklist (doc) and email it to DHS at   

To find out more about SNAP, including eligibility requirements, visit For more details about SNAP benefits for college students, visit SNAP for College Students (

Applications for public assistance programs such as SNAP can be submitted online at or by calling the Consumer Service Center at 1-866-550-4355. Additional information and assistance are also available at local County Assistance Offices.