It’s a SNAP…Assistance during Graduate School

When I started graduate school, I thought I was making bank because I was receiving a stipend of $12,000 a year for my assistantship at the University of Arkansas. This was more money than I had been receiving as an undergraduate student working as a Resident Assistant. My mind frame quickly changed, however when most of my first paycheck went to rent and other bills. I found myself quickly becoming jealous of my friends and colleagues who were working in Housing. They were receiving the same stipend in addition to free housing, a meal plan, phone, and Internet. All the while I had to pay for all those things out of my stipend or out of pocket. As most of you can imagine, it is extremely difficult to live off of only $12,000 a year… which is considered near poverty level. Therefore, I started searching for other ways to support myself financially to survive living off campus on my own.

One of my friends, and another graduate student in my cohort, informed me about SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You might know it by its former name as Food Stamps or EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer). The USDA offers this program to individuals and/or families that are struggling financially and provides them with a card, similar to a debit card, that is preloaded with a set amount of money that you can use to purchase food at most grocery stores. This card cannot be used to go out to eat at restaurants, but will help purchase groceries for the month.

I strongly suggest that those of you receiving a monthly stipend apply for SNAP benefits. It has been extremely useful and helpful to have these benefits and be able to purchase healthy food from the store instead of having to continue living as an undergraduate student eating Ramen noodles. Make sure that when you apply for benefits you inform your case manager that the income you are bringing in is from a graduate assistantship. I will advise you that each state has its own way of seeing if individuals qualify. Some states will require bank records and others may require other types of documents. Although the program is beneficial, you must be very patient throughout the process as it can usually take about a month from the time of application to start receiving benefits. In the end, some states might say that you do not qualify for SNAP; however, check out this website for more information on benefits and how to apply for this program:

Jonathan Davey

Student Affairs - the First Years

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