The Department of Human Services encourages every Pennsylvanian experiencing food insecurity to apply for SNAP, this includes students.

A lot of students enrolled in post-secondary education programs are not financially privileged. In fact, a 2021 Report from the HOPE Center at Temple University recently found that 39% of students at two-year schools and 29% of students at four-year schools experience food insecurity.

SNAP can provide extra support that ensures you will be able to buy groceries and not have to choose between a meal and a tuition bill. This line of support can make a big difference in being able to afford your education and stay nourished.

NOTE: SNAP is an entitlement program. This means if you receive SNAP, you are not taking benefits away from “someone who needs it more.” Everyone who is found eligible always receives the full benefit they are entitled to by law.

Students can get SNAP as long as you...

Meet all SNAP eligibility requirements:

Such as the income limits. Your financial aid and/or work-study earnings are not counted. NOTE: If you are 21 or younger and live at home with your parent(s), their income must be considered when determining your eligibility.


Do not have a meal plan:

Do not have a meal plan –or– you have a meal plan that provides 10 or fewer meals per week averaged over the course of a semester.


Qualify for at least one of the following student exemptions:

Exemptions based on enrollment status

  • Attending high school;
  • Enrolled in school less than half-time, as determined by your school; or
  • Attending a school or training program that is not an institution of higher education, meaning a school (or special curriculum at a college) which doesn’t require you have a high school diploma or GED to enroll.

Exemptions based on age or disability

  • Under age 18;
  • Age 50 or older; or
  • Physically or mentally unfit

Exemptions based on being a parent or caretaker

  • Receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits;
  • Caring for a child under age 6;
  • Caring for a child age 6-11 if childcare is unavailable; or
  • Single parent caring for a child age 6-11 AND going to school full-time.

Exemptions based on work or training

  • Working 20 hours per week;
  • Self-employed and earning at least $145 per week;
  • Participating in a work-study program, regardless of hours or earnings;
  • Participating in an on-the-job-training program; or
  • Enrolled in school through certain workforce development programs.

Special Exemption for Community College Students Only

Special Exemption for Programs that Increase Employability

  • Be enrolled in school through or in compliance with a DHS-approved state or local program to increase employability (approved programs).

How to Apply for SNAP

There are several ways to apply for SNAP, and you can apply even if you are not sure if you are eligible.

If you need help completing the application form or need more information about benefits, you can call your local county assistance office.

How to use SNAP benefits

If you are approved for SNAP benefits you will receive a Pennsylvania Access Card and a PIN, which works just like a debit card. Then, you can use your SNAP benefits at a various retail locations and online with participating retailers.

Programs Increasing Employability

If you enroll in school through or in compliance with one of the programs listed below, you may be eligible for a student exemption:

  • TRIO Upward Bound
  • University of Pittsburgh TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program
  • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP)
  • Education Leading to Employment and Career Training (ELECT)
  • Title II Adult Basic Education
  • Chafee Education and Training Grant (Chafee ETG)
  • Act 101 Programs
  • Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program (FosterEd)

Even if you do not meet the special exemption for programs that increase employability, you may still be eligible for a different student exemption.

NOTE: This page will be updated as additional programs are certified by DHS.