ALESTLE VIEW: College students might need food stamps, too

A sign indicates a store that accepts the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, the official name of the food stamp program. 

Food stamps are a hot button issue in the U.S. On almost any major news network, social services like this in America are often cited as being “too left-wing”, and have brought about the concept of “welfare queens,” which is totally untrue and based in negative stereotypes. 


Regardless of these negative stereotypes, many people, including staff members here at The Alestle, grew up eating the proverbial government cheese. Again, despite these stereotypes, some of us are proud of that fact. We bear the badge of our government support as proof that it is beneficial.


Once students reach college age, however, and have to start fending for themselves, issues quickly arise. The Illinois Legal Aid Online website states there are some straightforward guidelines for college students and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, like a minimum of a 20-hour work week, and require other conditions. 


However, some of the guidelines are far less understandable. It says students must also be under the age of 18 or over the age of 50 and be responsible for the care of a child between ages 6 and 12. There are plenty of students at SIUE, as well as other colleges statewide, where there are plenty of students who don’t fall into those guidelines, but still live on their own and need financial support.


Food stamps aren’t even typically part of the main discourse when it comes to college students and economics in this country. That debate usually focuses on the price of tuition and college debt. As we found out recently, President Joe Biden has changed his plans regarding student debt. Biden seems to not want to do what he previously promised, which was $100,000 of student debt canceled per person. So, if that is not on the table anymore, why not aid college students financially in another way?


In 2019, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that one in three college students cannot meet their basic needs financially. And with 90 percent of college students in the U.S. under the age of 24, that means 90 percent of college students in the U.S. are immediately not allowed to receive financial aid in Illinois. So, it is almost certain that the one in three college students who cannot meet their basic needs financially will overlap with the 90 percent who cannot receive SNAP benefits in Illinois.


SIUE does an okay job of supporting students who need financial aid already, with organizations and assistance from Cougar Cupboard, which is a food pantry on campus. However, Cougar Cupboard can only do so much. They only allow visits from clientele once a month.


We appreciate SIUE doing what they can, and since they obviously don’t control the federal or state guidelines for SNAP, this is not directed at them. A change may be upcoming from those who can give it to us in this field. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government passed The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. 


In a statement released in March of this year, SIUE stated that this meant SNAP benefits were now offered to students with no estimated family contribution on their FAFSA for the current year and/or students eligible for the work study program. That change expired in June of this year, but hopefully, this trend continues, and more changes come.


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