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New rule gives some Michigan college students more access to SNAP benefits

man welding, sparks
Daniel Wiadro
A rule announced Tuesday makes it easier for some Michigan college students to get food assistance from the state. It affects students in career and technical programs mostly at community colleges.

Picture this: you're going to college half-time and working half-time - at a low-paying job - to get by. Then a global crisis hits and you lose that part-time job. Soon, you realize you need help from the state to get food on the table, but to qualify you have to drop out of school.

Some Michigan college students had been facing that dilemma until a rule change that was announced Tuesday. 

“If your choice is between going to school, or eating, most people are going to choose eating,” Detroit Free Press education reporter David Jesse told Michigan Radio's Morning Edition. “The problem with that is,  that’s how you get stuck in cycles of not being able to get the credential, the diploma, the training that you need to land a job that pays enough for you to not be food insecure.”

Who's affected by the new rule?

More than 88,000 students could be covered by the change.

“This affects students who are studying in what are known as career and technical programs mostly at community colleges across the state,” Jesse said. “So, think of things like welding, manufacturing, those types of hands-on programs.”

What's changed?

“The rule basically said: if you’re going to school at least half-time you did not qualify for these benefits, even if your income was at the levels that you would, unless you were working at least 20 hours a week, or caring for a child, or had some sort of physical disability and couldn’t work," Jesse said.

“Now, it’s quite simple. If you’re enrolled in one of these programs then you qualify as long as you meet the income eligibility.”

Which schools are included?

There are 28 institutions affected by this change, according to Jesse's reporting. 

The schools include Henry Ford Community College, Wayne County Community College, Schoolcraft Community College, and Washtenaw Community College.

"Basically any community college across the state," Jesse said. 

Read more: 

"Michigan college students to get easier access to food assistance benefits" by David Jesse for the Detroit Free Press

Editor's note: Some answers here have been edited for length. You can hear the full interview at the top of the page. 

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
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