Michigan College Students Are Now Eligible for SNAP

by Leah Butz
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expansion to college students

Overview: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have announced an expansion of SNAP benefit eligibility to include college students. As of April 1, 2021, food insecure college students aged 18 to 49 are eligible for SNAP benefits of up to $234 per month if they meet the federal criteria. This temporary expansion will end thirty days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determines that the COVID-19 Federal Public Health Emergency has expired..

Location: Michigan

Population: 9,986,857

Food policy category: Food Insecurity and Economic Equity

Program goals: With reference to this expansion, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said, “College students should not have to choose between furthering their education and putting food on the table – especially during a pandemic.” In addition, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel said, “Expanding access to food and making it easier for our residents who are in need to apply for help are priorities of the department.” 

How it works: College students are now eligible for SNAP if they have an estimated family contribution of $0 as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a form that determines how much money a student’s family is expected to contribute to their educational expenses (such as tuition, room and board, and textbooks). Furthermore, students who are eligible for work-study are now also eligible for SNAP. Students who meet these criteria can apply on MI Bridges, the state’s online platform for government assistance programs. To learn more about Michigan’s SNAP application process, see their website.

Progress to date: The expansion took effect on April 1, 2021, and could potentially assist 200,000 college students in Michigan.

Why it is important: The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act temporarily expanded eligibility for SNAP benefits to include college students who are in school more than part-time. While the federal rollout of this program has been slow, individual states have had better luck expanding their SNAP enrollment. As many as one in three college students are food insecure, and if this expanded eligibility were rolled out nation-wide, it could affect 3 million students. Before the expansion, students had to work at least 20 hours per week in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits. Working so many hours could adversely affect their studies, and food insecurity and hunger also have a negative effect on academic performance. Providing students with SNAP benefits means that they can spend less time worrying about part-time employment and/or having enough to eat so that they are able to focus on succeeding in their classes.  

Program/Policy initiated: The expansion was announced on March 31, 2021, to begin on April 1, 2021. 

Point of contact: USDA Midwest Regional Office SNAP Director: (312) 353-6664

Similar practices: The federal government passed a temporary SNAP eligibility expansion in December 2020, but has been slow to get students enrolled. Thirteen states, including California, Washington, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Connecticut, have passed individual legislation to expand eligibility.. In addition, the State University of New York (SUNY) auto-enrolled 10,000 eligible students after an expansion was signed in October 2020.

Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been completed. 

Learn more: 


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