Monday, February 14

Major Bridge Card cuts coming to college students

Bridge Cards in Michigan are too easy to aquire. Basically if you have a pulse, you can apply to get up to $200 a month. Many college students have taken advantage of this program and are now on food assistance. But an article in the Detroit News revealed that the Department of Human Services is going to crack down on college students who are Bridge Card holders starting in April. The standards for having a card will be much more rigorous, basically only giving them to people in "very limited circumstances, such as caring for young children." If you work less than 20 hours a week, you automatically lose it.  As a conservative, I am all for the reduction of government handout programs. The Bridge Card should have stricter requirements, and I wouldn't even be opposed at all to major cuts in this program. But what ticks me off is the DHS's apparent attack on just college students.

There are 1.9 million Bridge Card holders in Michigan, and college students make up just 18,000 of that number. That is just less than one percent of total Bridge Card holders. Why is the DHS only targeting college students? (Or at least going public that they are making cuts just to college students) If they want to make cuts, then cut it across the board and have stricter requirements for everyone, not just students. Why take this away from Michigan residents furthering themselves through a college education (in Michigan), while the other 99% goes basically unchecked? They don't abuse the system? They "deserve" it more than college students? Give me a break.

I am fine with cuts, as long as everyone on the Bridge Card gets examined. I am 100% positive that not all the other 1.8 million people on the card deserve or need it. The whole food assistance program is a joke, but making college students the scapegoat is ridiculous. Cancel the whole program, I don't care. But don't just get all serious about stopping only college students from having the assistance or "abusing the system."

The main argument against the "abusers" is that kids are using their financial aid money, loan money and parent's money to buy booze and Virginia Slims, or whatever they please, since they don't have to pay for food. But what is stopping anyone else from doing the same "abuse?" Non-college students can use the bridge card money to buy food, while the money they get from the government or a job can be used to buy drugs. Abuse can happen, even if you are not in college. And there are plenty of college students who are not doing this.

Maura D. Corrigan and Michigan lawmakers are right to want to cut handout benefits. But they are wrong by stopping at just college students, who have massive loans thanks to the state universities. Not everyone in school has the luxury of mommy and daddy's pocketbook to dig into and pay for college, and not every college student can have a full time job and take a full class load (Unless they don't need sleep and don't mind getting C's). So why should we see cuts before the rest of the population? Why are college students seen as less deserving of a card, when people with no job and no attempt to gain a job can live off bridge cards and welfare all their lives? I get the whole argument that "if you can go to college, you can afford food." But the fact is, no one can afford college. You can work all you want and still have large debts when you leave. And going to college these days means more than just classes. If you want to get a leg up on your competition, then you have to join organizations, clubs and participate in events that are all unpaid and take up time. Having a full time job will hurt your grades, no questions asked. College is not affordable whatsoever.

Michigan has really treated its college students like garbage lately, by taking away scholarships mid-semester and this new cut only adds to the list of reasons young people are leaving the mitten state. Yes, these are all foofy liberal handout programs, but just focusing on less than one percent of the problem is a problem in itself. I would welcome stricter regulations for everyone, but the DHS's little PR/news cycle campaign that paints only students as thieves is accomplishes very little. The real problem is the wide open application process that allows everyone into the the program. Fix that for all Bridge Card holders before you blame students for abusing anything. Cut it all together or leave it alone, but don't start picking and choosing who deserves it more. 

By Aaron Brandt, who will probably be paying student loans and eating Ramen until he is 67.