SNAP for College Students
Back in November 2018, the New Jersey Department of Human Services announced new rules that will allow more poor college students to receive SNAP benefits. The food aid was planned to be offered to career and technical education students at community colleges, which is considered to be a top priority for Hunger-Free New Jersey according to the officials of the State.
It was estimated that around 67,000 poorest college students — several of whom face the awful choice of continuing their education or having something to eat- will benefit from this expansion of the program.
The Middlesex County College is among the pioneers of this new offer that opened a food pantry for students in early 2018. New Jersey Human Services Commissioner announced during his visit to the University that the SNAP will be offered to students in community college career and technical education programs. The advocates from Hunger Free New Jersey termed the condition of the low-income college students a hidden crisis on college campuses. New Jersey Human Services discussed and researched on how to tackle food insecurity among college students, expand SNAP eligibility for them, and raise understanding of food assistance on college campuses.
National studies reflected that around 40 percent of community college students reported being food insecure, which meant a not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of reasonable, nutritious food.
While addressing the students in the University Human Services Commissioner Johnson said “SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger, which is a year-round problem for far too many people, including students who too often are forced to worry about food instead of their studies. Students learning employable skills in New Jersey’s community colleges should not be left behind when it comes to this crucial nutritional assistance program.”
Eligibility for New Jersey program
Those college students who are at least half-time students participating in state-recognized employment and training program will be eligible. The State Administration will now recognize all approved Career and Technical Education Programs at New Jersey community colleges as eligible SNAP employment and training programs. Students qualifying for SNAP income eligibility standards and participate in these training programs will now have access to this critical food assistance.
The New Jersey’s administration, which is the first one to extend the offer to students, is committed to helping families by investing in access to quality and affordable childcare that helps allow students to attend classes and by providing this expanded and vital food assistance for eligible career and technical education students. For a lot of students, this initiative will make a remarkable difference which will not only mitigate potential barriers in the education of many but also make it possible for more college students to complete their degrees and succeed in life.
Proposed Bill the College Student Hunger Act of 2019’
Recently in early July 2019 a United States Senator and one of the Democrat’s presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts along with Rep. Al Lawson, a Florida Democrat introduced a bill aiming to make low-income college students eligible for SNAP benefits under.
The bill called ‘the College Student Hunger Act of 2019’ would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to include eligible college students for a federal Pell grant or whose families are considered low-income.
While introducing the bill Sen. Warren said, “As more and more students struggle to afford college and take on a mountain of student loan debt, nearly one in three college students cannot even afford necessities like food, our bill will ensure students have the support they need to work toward a better future without going hungry.” This bill is presented in continuation of a letter signed by many Senators including Warren submitted in February 2019 requesting a study on food insecurity at universities and colleges countrywide.
According to the official statement of the US Department of Agriculture, a majority of people between ages 18 to 49, who are enrolled in college with no disabilities, are not qualified for the program, with an exception for some students in state-designated work and training programs. The proposed legislation emerged months after a Government Accountability Office report identified that 2 million at-risk college students who could be eligible for SNAP didn’t receive benefits in 2016.
The other cosponsors of the bill include Senators Ed Markey, another Massachusetts Democrat and Kamala Harris, a California Democrat also running for president. Seven House Democrats co-sponsored the legislation, including Rep. James McGovern. Democrats on Beacon Hill welcomed the proposed draft of the legislation, including Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico, Sen. Anne Gobi, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, and Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy.
The Contents of the Bill
The proposed bill would lower SNAP’s current work requirement for college students from 20 to 10 hours per week as the work requirement can often cause students to drop out of college because they struggle to balance work with classes and homework. Besides, the bill requires the Education Department to notify low-income students about their potential SNAP qualification.
In addition to informing states and educational institutions about student eligibility for SNAP benefits, the bill would also require the USDA to inform and launch pilot projects to try methods to make SNAP more reachable to students, including using SNAP to buy prepared food from participating dining halls.
Rep. Lawson also echoed Warren in a statement saying “The significant increase in college tuition over the last decade has forced students to choose between buying food or paying for books and housing expenditures. This bill will help to relieve some of that financial burden for them.”
Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice surveyed nearly 86,000 college students from 123 schools and established that nearly half are “food insecure.” It was also found during the research that 45% of study participants often or sometimes are nervous that they do not have money to buy food or that their food will run out before they have the money to buy more or that they do not afford balanced meals. Currently, just 60% of first-time full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
A 2018 U.S Government Accountability Office report reflected that there are roughly 2 million college students in the U.S. who qualify for SNAP benefits but do not receive them. The GAO report analyzed food inaccessibility among college students in four states: California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Michigan. In Massachusetts, researchers did site visits of a two-year institution, Bunker Hill, and a four-year institution, the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
At present, SNAP eligibility differs from state to state, but the common condition is that the most non-disabled college students do not qualify unless they meet requirements beyond standards. For example, some poor students who have a disability or who are caregivers to a dependent family member can qualify for SNAP.
The chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy said he is aware of the issues that a huge number of college students having to choose between meals and materials for school. He maintained that with ever-increasing education costs, this legislation would provide concrete ways to assist students with the nutrition they need to thrive.