College students are facing unprecedented hurdles.
Students from households with low incomes and students of color are more likely to experience insecurity when it comes to basic needs like food, housing and income due to a history of inequitable policies. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these hardships even more severe, with 71% of Black students, 65% of Latinx students and 52% of White students saying they experienced insecurity with basic needs as the pandemic and subsequent shutdown began. It’s time for Michigan to create policies to help college students during the pandemic and beyond. Here are the League’s recommendations.
Support Hunger-Free Campus legislation
Michigan should follow the lead of states like Minnesota, California and New Jersey and enact Hunger-Free Campus Legislation that appropriates funding to college campuses that submit plans to address hunger among their students. For example, campuses could designate staff to help students navigate public assistance applications or set up campus food pantries.
Appropriate state funds to provide emergency pandemic grants to DACA students. DACA students and others are excluded from the federal funding made available in the CARES Act, yet likely face more or different challenges than most students during the pandemic.
Incentivize universities and community colleges to accept EBT Bridge cards at qualifying retailers on campus and provide ATMs that enable Bridge Card withdrawals. This will help not only students who receive public assistance while going to school, but will also help lower-paid employees working at or near the institution to access or make purchases with their benefits.
Create a food assistance manual for college students experiencing need. Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services should create a manual to increase outreach to eligible college students and to help ensure that policies are being followed uniformly regarding SNAP food assistance for students.
Colleges and universities should designate a staff member to assist students with applying for SNAP or other forms of public assistance. This is part of Hunger-Free Campus funding legislation in two states, but until such legislation is enacted in Michigan, universities can still provide this service. During times when social distancing is required, such services should be accessible by phone or an online video appointment.
Universities should create student basic neds websites explaining how to access SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and affordable healthcare; how to reduce the cost of utilities; how to secure emergency aid; and where to find free food, including any meal swipe programs.