Speak Up! Protect SNAP for College Students

By Carrie Welton

The Trump Administration has proposed a regulation that would take away food assistance from over 750,000 people, including college students with low incomes. The proposed rule would weaken the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), threatening students’ health and ability to finish school. Make your voice heard by opposing the SNAP rule with a public comment before April 2

Under federal law, non-disabled adults who are 18 to 49 and don’t have dependent children (ABAWDs) are limited to 3 months of SNAP in a 36-month period (unless they engage in work or job training activities at least half time). The proposed rule would limit states’ ability to waive these time limits in areas of high unemployment. Students enrolled at least half time aren’t subject to the time limit, and this wouldn’t change under the proposed rule. However, students enrolled less than half time who aren’t otherwise exempt would risk losing their benefits if they don’t meet SNAP time-limit rules. 

The power of public comments

The administration is trying to use federal rulemaking to exclude your elected representatives from the policymaking process. Public comments are the best way to push back. The administration is legally required to read and address every public comment on a proposed regulation. Comments can raise the profile of an issue, help affected communities speak up, and show policymakers that their proposal is broadly unpopular. Comments can also delay a final rule from being published.

SNAP is important for students

SNAP provides food assistance to people with low incomes, including college students. SNAP offers a modest assurance that people can meet their most basic human need for food first. Studies have shown that lack of access to food and proper nutrition exacerbates stress, anxiety, and depression, causes sleep disturbances and fatigue, and impairs cognitive functioning. It’s not surprising, then, that SNAP has been shown to improve health outcomes as well as children’s academic outcomes. It also increases financial stability, supports work, and stimulates our economy. For students, especially those at community colleges, reduced hunger and greater financial stability improves the likelihood of completing a degree or certificate program.

Proposed rule will harm students

Despite overwhelming evidence that connects postsecondary education with improved social, economic, and health outcomes, the proposed rule would further restrict access to SNAP for postsecondary students with low incomes. The proposal would dramatically weaken SNAP, making it harder for college students to meet their need for food. Among students enrolled less than half time, it would severely time-limit SNAP assistance for those who don’t have dependent children or are noncustodial parents. For all students, the rule would also add confusion to a complicated process.

The time-limit restriction would also deter people from applying and exacerbate confusion around SNAP eligibility. Already, an estimated 57 percent of students who may be eligible don’t participate in the program. The proposed rule would make it even harder for frontline workers to make clear eligibility determinations for students.

Taking all these factors together, the proposed rule would discourage education. Without SNAP benefits, students would struggle even more to achieve economic mobility through education and training activities. They would also be disconnected from supportive services through the SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) program.

Tell the administration why the proposed rule would seriously harm students and their ability to access basic food assistance. In your comment, you can cite research and use examples from your own experiences to show that people are more likely to work and have higher earnings when they have basic needs like food met first. 

The deadline to comment on the SNAP rule is April 2.

We encourage you to add your own stories to the template comments we have created that address the effect of the proposed rule on students. Additional templates can be found here. To submit your comment to regulations.gov, click here.

Our partners at the Food Research Action Center have also set up an action page, where you can learn more and submit a comment using their template.