TRENTON, N.J. – Financially-strapped New Jersey college students receiving Educational Opportunity Fund awards should be not have to worry about how they are going to afford their next meal, says Assemblywoman Aura Dunn. Her bill calling on the federal government to relax the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s 20-hour work requirements for EOF students, who often must maintain certain GPAs and participate in additional college programming to remain eligible for the awards, was cleared by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Thirty-six percent of students know someone who has dropped out due to food insecurity during the pandemic. Supporting this bill means supporting students and builds on our efforts to fight hunger on college campuses,” Dunn (R-Morris) said during her testimony at the meeting on Monday.
Since SNAP was established pursuant to federal law, Dunn’s bill (A4168) requires the N.J. Department of Human Services to apply to the federal Food and Nutrition Service to approve a waiver that would relax SNAP’s work requirements for EOF award recipients. After federal approval, New Jersey would launch a public awareness campaign about the new SNAP eligibility criteria.
“Economically disadvantaged and often first-generation college students in the EOF program are really hurting from increased food costs and rising tuition rates,” Dunn said. “Many of us have to save and scrimp to be able to go to college, but forgoing food is a sacrifice no one should have to make. This bill is a first step toward ensuring they have one less worry and won’t go hungry.”
Undergraduate EOF awards range from $200 to $2,650 annually depending on the type of institution and financial need. Forty-two of New Jersey’s colleges and universities participate in the fund and oversee program participation, recruitment and admission.
Students, ages 18 to 49, attending an institution of higher education more than half-time are eligible for SNAP if they meet income and asset eligibility standards, and at least one of a number of other conditions like working at least 20 hours a week, caring for a child under 6 years old or participating in an on-the-job training program.
In Aug. 2020, the bill unanimously passed the Assembly Human Services Committee and was referred to appropriations for consideration.