Student Status

Revised August 14, 2023


This section explains who is considered a student for the Basic Food program, which students are eligible for Basic Food, and when student status begins and ends.

WAC 388-482-0005  How does being a student of higher education affect my eligibility for the Washington Basic Food Program?


Clarifying Information - WAC 388-482-0005

  1. General Rule:

    An applicant or recipient who is enrolled and taking at least six credits (half time) in an institution of higher education is ineligible to receive Basic Food unless they meet one of the exemptions described in this section.

  2. Institutions of Higher Education Including Online Schools:

    An institution of higher education includes:

    1. Business, technical, trade, or vocational school that normally requires a high school diploma or equivalency certificate for enrollment;

    2. A college or university that offers degree programs regardless of whether a high school diploma is required; 

    3. Online schools (for example: University of Phoenix); and

    4. Correspondence schools as long as the entry criteria or degree program characteristics are met and the student is considered attending at least half time.



      All Washington state public universities, technical, and community colleges consider 6 credits to be half time. If someone is attending a private college or university, half time status must be verified with the school.

  3. Courses not considered higher education:

    A student isn't considered enrolled in an institution of higher education if they attend only for the purpose of participating in one of the following programs:

    1. English as a second language (ESL);
    2. High school completion and GED courses including Running Start;
    3. Courses that are not a part of the regular college program; or
    4. A WIA program contracted by a college.


      Kurt attends a technical college that offers both a two-year degree program and a one-year certificate program. The degree program requires a high school diploma or GED for enrollment, while the certificate program has no such requirements. Kurt is enrolled in the one-year certificate program curriculum. Since the certificate-only program that he's enrolled in doesn't require a diploma or GED, Kurt isn't considered to be enrolled in an institution of higher education. Therefore, Kurt doesn't have to meet student eligibility requirements for Basic Food.

  4. When Student Status Ends:

    Student status ends when the student:

    1. Graduates;
    2. Is suspended or expelled;
    3. Drops out of school; or
    4. Doesn't intend to register for the next normal school term (excluding summer school).
  5. Employed Students:

    Employed students meet the eligibility criteria when they work at least 80 hours each month or average 20 hours per week.  It is not necessary that they work 20 hours each week.

  6. Self Employed Students:

    Self-employed students meet the eligibility criteria when they:

    1. Work an average of twenty hours each week; and
    2. Earn an amount at least equal to the federal minimum wage for twenty hours a week.  The current federal minimum wage can be found at:
  7. Care for a dependent person in the AU:

    To be considered an eligible student based on need to provide care for a dependent member of the AU, the client must be responsible for more than half of the care.

    Because of this, one child can't make more than one student eligible for Basic Food. See Worker Responsibilities below for recommended interview questions and documentation requirements for allowing student eligibility based on dependent care responsibilities when both parents live in the household.

  8. Income-in-kind:

    Income-in-kind isn't considered payment for work and can't be used to establish hours of workweek.


    Melanie works for the college during her summer break. Instead of paying her wages, the school deducts the income from her fall tuition costs. We can't use the value of the work or the hours worked when we determine if she is an eligible student.

  9. Work Study:

    For the work study exemption the student must be both:

    1. Approved for work study as part of a financial aid package for the school term; and
    2. Anticipate participating in a work study job during that time.

If a work study job isn’t available or hasn’t begun, the student is still eligible for the exemption until they notify us they refused a work study job.



Worker Responsibilities -  WAC 388-482-0005


If a client is determined to be an ineligible student as they meet no exemption during the Basic Food interview, deny the application. Don't pend the application to allow them time to begin meeting an exemption. If the client wants to qualify for Basic Food through meeting student eligibility, they must reapply after their circumstance changes.

Example: Patrick is a student of higher education and applies for Basic Food. During the interview, he discloses he has a job interview, but hasn’t been hired. Patrick meets no other exemptions. Don't pend his application for the results of the job interview. He can reapply once he meets the 20 hours a week average if he is hired or if he meets another exemption.

  1. Determine if the person attending school is a ‘student’ for purposes of Basic Food:

    If a client attends school, determine if they meet the definition of “student” for Basic Food before looking at whether or not they are an eligible student.  We don’t consider someone to be a student if they are:

    • Under 18;
    • 50 or over;
    • Physically or mentally unable to work; or
    • In a program that doesn't require a GED or Diploma and doesn't offer a degree.

    If a client claims to be physically or mentally unable to work and their statement is questionable, verify the claim by:

    1. Proof of permanent disability benefits issued by a public or private source; or
    2. A statement from a qualified professional or their staff.
  2. Evaluate a student’s eligibility for Basic Food:

    1. If you decide a client meets the definition of a student, review the circumstances to decide if they are an eligible student for Basic Food.
    2. Before allowing student eligibility based on dependent care responsibilities when both parents live in the household, determine why the other parent cannot care for the child in place of the student parent.


    A student and her spouse have a 4 year old child. The non-student parent isn't employed but is actively looking for work. The student parent cares for the child about 60% of the time. In this case the worker documents that since the non-student parent is actively looking for work by filing job applications and attending interviews the student parent needs to care for the child more than half the time to allow for the other parent’s job search activities. The student is eligible for Basic Food.

  3. Determining Student Income

    Student income must be evaluated and verified for all students, even if the student doesn't have to meet student eligibility criteria.


    Mark is a student at Western Washington University, attending half-time. He is 53 years old and doesn't have to meet student eligibility requirements. You must determine if he receives any countable or exempt student income.

    • Unearned:

      Payments for the educational assistance of an AU member enrolled at a recognized institution of post-secondary education, school for the handicapped, vocational program or a program that provides for completion of a secondary school diploma or GED.

    • Earned:

      Work study program wages are earnings from a program operated by a post-secondary school in which the student works and earns money during the year. Federally funded work study is non-countable income, whereas state-funded work study is countable income.

    • Income-in-kind:

      Income-in-kind isn't considered payment for work and can't be used to establish hours of work week.

    • Educational income:

      All educational income excluded under WAC 388-450-0035  is excluded and not counted in the eligibility or benefit determination.  This includes, but isn't limited to:

      • Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (BEOG)
      • Pell Grant
      • Federal Supplement Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
      • State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG)
      • Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP)
      • Guaranteed Student Loans (GSL)
      • Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), includes Federal Direct Stafford Loan, Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, Consolidated Loan, PLUS Program
      • Federal Airlines Loan Program
      • Bureau of Indian Affairs Adult Education, Higher Education, GED, Job Training and Technical School Programs
      • Federal Work Study Programs
      • TRIO Grants such as Upward Bound, Robert E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement, Student Support Services
      • Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship
      • College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)
      • High School Equivalency Program (HEP)
      • National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership Program
      • HOPE Scholarship
      • Educational assistance received through the Montgomery GI Bill

      Some of the educational assistance sources named above (except funding from Title IV HEA and BIA education assistance) will have funds not used for attendance costs that must be counted as unearned income. Make sure you refer back to WAC 388-450-0035 for specific rules about when you can exclude the entire educational assistance amount.

    • Veteran's Administration Educational Assistance (including Montgomery GI Bill):

      Subtract all attendance costs allowed in sub-sections (2) (a) and (b) of WAC 388-450-0035  from the student's educational assistance.  Budget the amount left as unearned income to the AU.  Average this income over the period of time the VA states the assistance covers.


      Exclusions apply only to monies from an educational source and not to educational payments made from income available to the AU such as earnings, contributions from parents, TANF, etc. All educational assistance income must be verified.

      See WAC 388-450-0035 to determine how a client’s educational income may impact their benefits.

    • Resources:

      Educational income isn't counted as a resource during the period of time the income is expected to cover (usually the school term).


      Jake received a GSL of $5,000 for the school term of September 1 through May 24. He put the money into a savings account to use as needed during the school months. The $5,000 is excluded as a resource until it is no longer considered income (May 25).

    • Case Documentation:

      Document in a case record how you determined that a student was eligible for Basic Food along with how you verified that the student is eligible for benefits.  The verification may be obtained from the student, source, or school. Examples of verification are:

      • Responsibility for child: Student's statement he/she is responsible for the child if there is an age appropriate child in the household. His/her explanation about the availability of adequate child care should be written and is acceptable, unless questionable. If questionable, further clarification is needed. For example, if the non-student parent in a two parent household is not employed, but the student claims to provide more than half the care for a child in the home, further inquiry and documentation is warranted to explain why the non-student parent does not provide the majority of care.
      • Physical or mental impairment: If the disability is evident to the worker, no further verification is required. If not, verification may consist of temporary or permanent disability payments (paid because the individual is unable to work) from governmental or private sources (SSA, SSI, etc.), or a statement from the individual's physician or licensed or certified psychologist that the individual is unable to work.
      • School status: Statement from the student that he/she is enrolled at least half time is acceptable unless questionable. If questionable, verification is required (examples; awards letter, statement from school regarding number of credit hours student is attending and how many credit hours are needed for at least half-time, etc.).  Some schools may indicate the student is attending "part time." This must be clarified, as this does not mean "less than half time."
      • Anticipating Work Study: A student's statement that they can reasonably expect or foresee being assigned a work study job is acceptable. The client still needs to provide proof they are approved work study as defined by the institution of higher education.
      • Income eligibility: Work Study, TRA/TAA, and WIA may be verified by the student (awards letters, copies of checks, etc.), school (financial aid officer), or source (Job Services). TANF may be verified via ACES.
      • On-the-job Training: Documentation from the employer that the individual is attending school as part of the employee's training.
      • BFET enrollment: Basic Food applicants accepted for enrollment in an institution of higher education through the Basic Food Employment and Training program will provide a letter from the school (BFET partner college) indicating the student is enrolled in an approved program of study and will be accepted into the BFET program contingent upon DSHS approval of Basic Food benefits.  See WAC 388-444-0015  for more information about BFET.