More college students turn to food stamps - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

More college students turn to food stamps

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Rising tuition, climbing expenses, and a lack of jobs are putting the pinch on college students.

"I have two jobs right now and it's just crazy," said VCU student Pegah Rahmani.

More students are turning to food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Virginia Department of Social Services says it's SNAP expenditures on college students just for the month of January 2007 was $447,000. By January of 2012, that number rose to $2.9 million. The total for college students in 2011 was $30 million.

"I used to have them," Rahmani told us.

"I know a lot of people that are using food stamps," said VCU student Travis Doran.

Added student Austin Hall, "Definitely at the end of the semester, when the swipes start running out, the meal plan swipes."

The student increase coincides with the overall increase in families in Virginia receiving food stamps, up 89% since 2007. And students can legally qualify if they meet certain criteria, such as working 80 hours a month, participating in a work-study program, or are a single parent.

The State of Michigan recently tightened requirements to get 30,000 students off food stamps, saving $75 million a year.

The Virginia Department of Social Services declined our requests for an interview but says it has not tried to reduce the number of students on food stamps, saying they only make up 2.5% of all recipients, and the money is Federally funded.

Students themselves have mixed opinions as to whether food costs for low-income students should be covered by a college's financial aid or by food stamps.

Said Austin, referring to food stamps, "I guess so, it definitely makes it easier, puts food on the table."

Countered Rahmani, "Financial aid. I've never applied for it, but I think it should cover it."

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, which students fill out to apply for financial aid, asks them to report food stamps allotments they receive as income.

College financial aid packages often include meal plans for students who qualify, though schools face tight budgets, too.

Both the University of Richmond and VCU sent us statements saying they do not provide any advice to students regarding food stamps.

Some students tell us without food stamps, they simply couldn't eat.

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