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Student Earned Income Exclusion (SSI)

When an individual applies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate his or her income to see if they fall within the set income limits.

Parents of children applying for SSI are often concerned about letting their children work for fear of compromising their eligibility for SSI benefits. The Student Earned Income Exclusion allows students under the age of 22 with the chance to earn income without it affecting their SSI benefit. The Student Earned Income Exclusion was established as part of the SSA’s efforts to encourage benefit recipients to enter the workforce.

If a student applicant or recipient is under the age of 22 and is attending school full time, the SSA will exclude a portion of his or her income when calculating their eligibility for benefits. In 2016 the SSA will exclude up to $7,180 of income per month and up to $7,180 of income per year. This means that income within these amounts will not count against the student’s eligibility.

The Student Earned Income Exclusion usually increases each year. The amount varies each year depending upon cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). This particular exclusion is applied before any other exclusion when determining SSI benefits. The SSA considers a student to be a full-time student if he or she:

  • Attends college or university for at least eight hours a week; or
  • Is in grades 7 through 12 for at least 12 hours a week; or
  • Attends training courses to prepare for employment for at least 12 to 15 hours a week; or
  • Is home schooled for at least 12 hours per week in accordance with the home school law of the State in which the student resides; or
  • Attends school for less time than indicated above for reasons beyond the student's control, such as illness.

If a student is homebound for any reason, he or she is considered to be a student in the following instance:

  • Studies a course or courses provided by a school (grades 7–12), college, university, or government agency; and has a home visitor or tutor from the school who teaches the student.

It is important to note that this exclusion is not solely for the SSI applicant. The Student Earned Income Exclusion also applies to earnings “deemed” from an ineligible spouse or parent—if they meet the above mentioned requirements.