While I’m sure there are students taking fraudulent advantage of the Bridge Card program, I hope the state Legislature and The Michigan Daily (A whole in the ‘Bridge’, 02/09/2011) keep in mind that there is a significant number of students with a legitimate need for this assistance.
I am one of those students. My parents pay neither my rent, nor any of my other bills, and contribute only minimally to my tuition. I don’t ask for more because I know they can’t afford it. Without my Bridge Card, I’d be taking out additional loans just to pay for food and lodging, and I don’t believe I should have go into debt to feed myself. Or I’d be eating Ramen five days a week. While that makes for a good joke about college life, it does nothing to improve my physical and mental health, and thereby my contribution to the University community.
If the state needs to save money on the Bridge Card program, what about restricting what benefit recipients are allowed to buy? New York City is considering banning soda purchases with food assistance money. A similar measure in Michigan could save money and improve the health of our residents (we are ranked 10th in the nation in adult obesity), while also preventing people from abusing the system by buying soda solely to return the bottles for cash.
I believe the simplicity of the Department of Human Services application is an advantage. It should be easy for people who need help to obtain help. I agree that changing the definition of “who needs help,” or adding another round of checks to the application process may be necessary to prevent waste and abuse, but please, let’s keep in mind that not all students here at the University fit into the upper middle-class bracket, and not all of us are abusing this program. Being a student is difficult both academically and financially, and some of us truly need our Bridge Cards. I sincerely hope that legislators will not choose to take this help away from me and my fellow students.