EDITORIAL: Bridge Card reform long overdue, could cut too deep

When Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Tuesday the new state budget would be an “atomic bomb,” students probably did not expect their Bridge Cards to be carried off in the shockwave. But targeting the Food Assistance Program to trim the budget can be reasonable.

The recent decision to strike student status from qualifications could vaporize benefits for up to 15,000 of the 25,923 college students covered in April.

That the program, which is undeniably abused by many of its college-aged users, would be one of many to feel the shears on the path to a balanced state budget was not unexpected.

It is difficult to justify snatching taxpayer dollars to pay for fresh crab leg dinners for college students perfectly capable of feeding themselves from their own or their parents’ funds.

However, the breadth, severity and immediacy of the cuts were a surprise.

It is heartening to see Gov. Rick Snyder willing to take serious action to bring the budget in line with reality, but changes to a program that provides a staple to 3,433 students in Isabella County alone should not be rushed.

While abuse was likely rampant, many students who take a full course load simply do not have the time to also work enough hours to pay for groceries. That is assuming they can find jobs at all when the labor market is flooded with unemployed workers with much more open schedules.

When parents cannot fill the gap because of their own economic concerns, something must be done.

Student loans and unemployment insurance can ease the transition, but there will at best be more debt or another battery of forms for students to overcome.

Greater stringency in the Food Assistance Program is not only needed, but long overdue. Unfortunately, the sweeping cuts coming to students’ wallets in April are more akin to severing the arm to cure the infected pinky than the balanced spending reform Michigan needs.

Limiting food assistance only to employed students reiterates that this is, in fact, aid and not an allowance, but raising the bar to working 20 hours a week may be unfair. There are a number of students with on-campus jobs who work less than 20 hours, but still depend on food assistance to help support themselves.

If a student was approved for food assistance through this year and worked 19 hours, that student loses all their food assistance April 1, no questions. A more gradual approach, like allowing newly ineligible students to continue through their previously approved date, may be less problematic for those affected.

The program was excessive and overly generous, and needed to be reformed. While this sends a strong message on the part of the state government, a little further consideration could have made the change easier for those governed.


  1. I am thrilled to see the state taking action on this subject. It WOULD however, be kinder to at least let the university students finish out this semester before they take the axe to food assistance. How about May or June for the cut off date?
    Am I mad as hell when I hear of my daughters 4 roommates getting food assistance to the tune of $800.00 a month? You bet! All of whom are kids that COULD be living at home while going to school. Does it bother me that she tells me that they can’t even eat all the groceries they buy? Hmmm….YES! But I still wouldn’t pull the rug out from under everyone so fast as April. Let’s give these kids a chance to scramble for a job. Or, for those that DO have a job, that they can get accustomed to buying groceries that are within their means.

    • They can’t even finish the food? Are they smart enough to realize that the money rolls over?
      Why are they even in college again?

  2. Atom Bomb. Perfect analogy of what they are going to do to the state with these types of cuts.

    Enjoy the fallout.

  3. I had an on-campus job, donated plasma, and had a bridge card – all of which were needed. If anything the amount should be cut-down, as opposed to be removed completely. I may have purchased the occasional Monster with it, but I was nowhere near having crab legs and steak for dinner every evening. This also allowed for the purchased of more expensive, healthier food I would’ve ignored completely such as apples.

    I hope this system is in place in some form in the future, as I have a younger sister attending CMU next fall and obviously wouldn’t need it while living in the dorms. But living off-campus, it would help our family quite a bit (even though she does not require anywhere near the amount of food I did).

    • The fact that your card was able to buy monster is beyond me.
      I feel like this could be a much more efficient thing, but SOMEbody was in charge of giving the ok to buy acid-sugar drinks with government money. The only thing you should be able to buy with that card is fruits, vegetables, bread, and eggs.

  4. I do not think the State has the financial means to be “kind” we are in crisis.

  5. They should also look at how quickly ineligibility is determined. I had a bridge card when I was a student at CMU and relied on it to feed myself and two other guys. After graduation and a 6 month job search I found employment and immediately notified the DHS of my employment. Two months later I finally got an appointment with an agent, which lasted all of 5 minutes once I disclosed my salary. All the while DHS was putting $200 a month on my card, when somebody else could have used it.

  6. None of my friends truly needed a bridge card while in college. They would just brag about “getting stuff for free.” Americans at even their mid 20s are not mature enough to deserve the benefits of a bridge card. The ones who DID need them didn’t have the heart to use government money to even buy oatmeal. How’s that for the real world?

  7. cutting off the Bridge Card is more akin to severing the arm to cure the infected pink? Seriously,
    You do you really think that cutting off a $200 a month benefit is that serious? If students are only attending CMU thanks to the $1,800 of bridge card benefits they receive, the university should see a serious decline of students next fall……I bet these students will still come back.

  8. cutting off the Bridge Card is more akin to severing the arm to cure the infected pink? Seriously,
    You do you really think that cutting off a $200 a month benefit is that serious? If students are only attending CMU thanks to the $1,800 of bridge card benefits they receive, the university should see a serious decline of students next fall……I bet these students will still come back.

  9. yeah, because teaching people who live beyond their means that they can’t take from others isn’t a good idea. If you can’t afford to feed yourself while going to college then the obvious intelligent thing to do is stop going so you can feed yourself. Take a class at a time or whatever.
    I work at a bar in town. I never see someone with a student id come in without a bridge card. You can’t feed yourself because you’re a poor college student but you can find money to drink. Bums do stuff like that, beg for free stuff then blow the money they have on alcohol.

  10. It’s there to help the less fortunate and people to get on their feet. Not help the people who are already on their feet to get further along. Seriously, to hear some of you complain is sickening. You already have enough to go to college and then you want more? The rich stealing from the poor. Nice….not greedy at all. Learn your limitations

  11. This is just teaching people to go out and have a child so that you can qualify for the benefits. meanwhile me as a college grad student who goes to school 8-5 every day, comes home and studies until 1 in the morning, with 2 exams/w, you expect me to be able to cram 20hr/wk into that? I am already going to owe the government $250,000 in student loans because my tuition is 65,000 a year. I understand cut backs, but there is absolutely no way I can squeeze a 20hr/wk job into that as well. I work my a** off during breaks, but that money doesn’t last me the whole year, plus I will be in clinics next year and will not have breaks to work on anymore. I’m trying to make a good life and career for myself, but now I am forced to make decisions on buying books vs buying food. I don’t party, I depend on that money to be able to eat. My husband was laid off of his really good paying job, and now works part time for 8/hr, plus is going to school as well to make a better life for himself. We can barely make rent on an $8/hr part time job, let alone start paying for food too. It’s ridiculous that they are taking it away from people like me who are trying to contribute to society in the future, not sitting at home on welfare because I have too many kids. It’s sad that you are saying well, we will support you because you have no education and a ridiculous amount of children, but we won’t support those who are trying to make something out of themselves. Fricken ridiculous.

  12. Its not only students that abuse the program. Bridge card assistance is not a career and people are using it like it is. It was meant to help the less fortunate, but not for life. If the state were to cut out all of the extravagent items that people are allowed to purchase with the bridge card, they wouldnt need so much money to live on in a month. when people are purchasing $100 in soda with the bridge card,dumping it in the parking lot and returning the cans for cash, something is wrong with the system. there is your tax money literally being dumped in the gutter! Get a clue people. Alcohol and toacco should not be allowed with your card either, and i don’t care if it is with the cash portion, its wrong and you are wasting our tax money.

  13. this is stupid says:

    How about really checking into who is receiving the benefits…a student busting butt to make it in the world, or baby mama poppin out a kid a year in order to live off the system.

  14. It seems better to have your own student loan debt because your own financial problems then have that debt transferred to the state which hurts everyone. I work full time and go to school half time using student loans. It will take a little longer for my degree but why should everyone else in this state pay for me.I am very disappointed on how little was cut from the food/cash assistance programs. At  the very least put restrictions so they cant buy garbage with our money, start drug testing, require enrollment in school. If you qualify for assistance you qualify for FREE college and all or some child care. Isn’t the idea of the program to help people get back on their feet. As it stands it seems to just allow people to suck off it without any plans of bettering their situation and then this mentality is passed on to their children. This cycle needs to be stopped!

  15. First of all, If you are so broke why are you going to such an expensive school there are thousands of less expensive ones that are just as qualified or more than the that one. Secondly if your so broke why dont you apply for a low income grant if that is your only income 8/hr you will qualify. As far as student loans is concerned borrrow an extra thousand and buy your books. I am not saying you shouldnt be allowed to have it Im just saying get some perspective. This entitlement mentality needs to end from everyone.

  16. Yeah cause being completely in debt as a state is a great thing!! Let me work my butt off so everyone else can suck of the state resources! Sounds good!

  17. Yeah cause being completely in debt as a state is a great thing!! Let me work my butt off so everyone else can suck of the state resources! Sounds good!

  18. No one is “entitled” to anything. However to say “You’re going to school, you don’t need food.” Yet some crack whore popping out children every year gets one? I don’t think so. I own two businesses, and work full time for an attorney and it is still not enough. And your comment RE: what school she is going to is unacceptable. The better the school, the better the pay. Thats how it works. Keep on trudging along!

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