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Public Policy and Administration


Gloria J. Billingsley


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a public food supplement assistance program offered by the U.S. federal government. Undergraduate students who apply for the program must work at least 20 hours per week while concurrently enrolled in six academic units or more. However, students who work more find less time to commit to their college studies, resulting in a negative impact on their academic performance. This phenomenography study’s purpose is to understand from an academic advisor’s perspective how SNAP’s work policy affects academics among first-generation undergraduate students. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Goldratt’s theory of constraints were the conceptual frameworks utilized in the study. Data collected consisted of in-depth interviews with 16 qualified academic advisors from across 12 community colleges and universities who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and have at least 2 years of experience. Data were analyzed using Colaizzi’s seven-step process and the inductive coding process. Significant findings were that academic advisors validated their students’ challenges and thought the SNAP work policy of 20 hours per week was excessive. The study revealed that no one-size-fits-all approach for students is applicable; few advisors agreed on the implementation and design of the work policy where the average indicates a cap not to exceed 20 hours. Also evident was the number of circumstances not considered when reviewing the SNAP work exemptions. Continued retention of college students and improved government policy that reduces the number of hours required to qualify for SNAP benefits were identified as positive social change measures and could positively impact students’ academic success going forward.

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