How more affluent families get welfare for pricey private colleges

Albion College is one of the most expensive private schools in Michigan and many of its students come from families of means.

On the surface, it would appear the liberal arts students at Albion would have little in common with those living in the poor neighborhood that surrounds the school, where a third of residents live in poverty.

Yet they do, and most students are likely unaware of this stunning fact: A greater percentage of Albion students are receiving federal welfare money than those in the neighborhood surrounding the campus.

At Albion, 63 percent of in-state students receive a Michigan Competitive Scholarship or a Michigan Tuition Grant, college aid the students themselves might be surprised to learn is funded almost entirely with federal anti-poverty money. This at a college in which the median family income of students receiving financial aid is nearly $76,000.

That rate is also more than double the percentage of Albion students who were awarded a Pell Grant in the 2013-14 school year, which go to U.S. college students coming from the poorest of family backgrounds.

The use of federal welfare money to help more financially comfortable Michigan students attend pricey private schools is hardly confined to Albion.

Two-thirds of Michigan students at Calvin College benefit from welfare funds, even though the median family income of Calvin students getting financial aid is $85,000. Similar numbers emerge at Alma, Kettering, Hope, Olivet and other expensive schools.

In all, Michigan spends about $100 million annually in welfare money from Washington on college aid, including millions that benefit families earning over $100,000. This in a state in which only 18 of every 100 families living in poverty are receiving cash assistance.

Slideshow: Private colleges, public aid

Michigan has spent more than $1 billion in federal anti-poverty money on college scholarships and grants since 2007, much of it going to middle- or higher-income students attending pricier private schools. Because costs there are higher than at public universities – with tuition at some exceeding $40,000 – many more affluent families qualified for the aid. These 10 schools had the widest gap between the percent of in-state students getting aid (generally high) and the percent of poor students on campus (often far lower) during the 2013-14 school year.

Note: Students getting welfare aid is the percent of in-state students who received a Michigan Competitive Scholarship or a Michigan Tuition Grant. Median family income is for all families that received federal financial aid, including student loans. Poor students on campus are the percent of all students awarded a Pell Grant, given to students with the lowest family incomes, usually below $20,000.

Calvin College sign
University of Detroit Mercy
Alma College
Hope College
Adrian College
Kettering University
Cornerstone University
Olivet College
Kalamazoo College

How we got here

How Michigan came to redirect welfare money, known officially as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, to help pay the tuition at expensive, private schools has its roots in two seismic events of the recent past. First, welfare reform, passed during the Clinton Administration 20 years ago, which gave states broad discretion in distributing anti-poverty funds. Second, the great recession of 2008, which led Lansing to divert tens of millions of dollars in anti-poverty money to student aid.

But after a decade in which Michigan has slashed cash assistance to the poor, some question the state’s generous approach to funding student aid with welfare money.

“We shouldn’t be paying for financial aid for upper-income students with money that should be going toward making a more robust safety net for poor people,” said Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy, a nonpartisan Lansing-based group that advocates for the poor, which gathered income data on families obtaining welfare aid.

All told, Michigan has spent a billion dollars in federal welfare money since 2007 on scholarship programs for college students, many at private colleges where annual tuition can exceed $40,000. About 60 percent of students who get the aid come from families with incomes above $50,000.

At the same time, the state has cut TANF spending that goes directly to cash assistance for the poor by over $500 million.

Under the Clinton-era welfare reform, intended to get families off government assistance and into jobs, states were given broad leeway in allocating federal money for the poor, but it is not unrestricted. States must show they are directing the money to programs that fulfill one of four aims:

  • Helping needy families
  • Getting recipients into jobs
  • Reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • Encouraging two-parent families.

And if you were to guess which category Michigan cited to redirect welfare money to college aid, you might well guess wrong.

The state justified the switch by saying that college aid helps prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies. The rationale: If students are in college, they’re less likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy.

Many in Lansing acknowledge that the optics of using welfare money for middle-class students at more expensive colleges is striking, and advocate uncoupling the two. But to do so now, some say, will require more money -- money that may be hard to find in Lansing as education advocates push for even more funding – on top of the $100 million that includes TANF money – for college student aid.

“To my knowledge there’s not a spare $250 million sitting around to make a significant increase in student financial aid,” said Robert Lefevre, president of the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, a 25-school group whose members include Albion College.

Kurt Weiss, spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder’s State Budget Office, said there are no current plans to revisit how Michigan distributes anti-poverty funds to students from more affluent families attending expensive private schools.

But Weiss added in an email that the administration is “certainly open to discussing this issue and looking at the best ways to meet the needs of Michigan’s children and families. As you know, there are many demands on General Fund spending, and the General Fund pie is only so big.”

Middle-class benefits

Students of middle and upper-income families are able to qualify in part because the aid programs consider family need in the context of the price tag of the school their children wish to attend. And many of the state’s private colleges are more expensive than public schools.

More than 50,000 Michigan students annually are getting scholarships backed by TANF. At Olivet College in Olivet, nearly 85 percent of students received a welfare-backed scholarship or grant; at Hope College in Holland, where the median family income of students getting financial aid was over $86,000 in 2013, more than half of its in-state students got TANF-backed aid, even though only 20 percent of Hope students were awarded a Pell Grant.

The situation is markedly different at Michigan’s public universities, where the award of TANF-based aid is more aligned with student poverty levels.

In-state students attending Michigan’s 15 public universities are only eligible for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, which has required a student to have scored at least a 23 on the ACT college admission test. (For graduates in 2017 and beyond, the ACT score will not be considered; students will have to have at least a 1200 on the SAT).

At nearly every public university, the proportion of students awarded a Pell Grant exceeded that of students earning a Michigan Competitive Scholarship.

At Michigan State, for instance, just under 20 percent of in-state students got MCS aid, while 23 percent of students were awarded a Pell Grant. At Western Michigan, just 7 percent of in-state students got an MCS while nearly 40 percent were awarded a Pell Grant.

The 2007 dilemma

What prompted the funneling of welfare money into college aid? The strangling economics of the Great Recession, which the administration of then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm determined needed a creative fix.

Back in 2007, as the state was scrambling to make up huge deficits, budget officials realized the state could lose tens of millions dollars in TANF funds because of how Michigan was spending the federal money. The feds didn’t want Michigan, or any state, to use federal welfare money to replace each state’s own obligations to the poor. So states had to show they too were putting in a certain amount of funds annually for needy families.

So budget officials had an idea: Take general fund money that was already going to scholarships and put it in the Department of Health and Human Services budget, where TANF lived, to “maintain” state funding levels as required by the feds. Then use TANF money that was already in the DHHS budget to plug the now-gaping hole in financial aid and call it “pregnancy prevention.”

It would look like state funding in DHHS has actually increased, with TANF money now shifted to another approved category for needy families – pregnancy prevention. It was a classic bureaucratic shell game -- neither fund lost a penny and the budget crisis was averted.

And the feds were fine with the switch, in part because welfare reform encouraged states to think more creatively. Indeed, other states also found inventive ways to spend that money.

But what started as a quick-fix became a permanent fixture of the state budget. In the upcoming fiscal year, more than $98 million in federal welfare money will be spent on college scholarships.

Lefevre, of the independent colleges organization, acknowledged that the budget fix that put TANF money in students’ aid packages was a “bad fit.”

“Ten years later, should we still be doing it? I think the answer is no. But we still have the (funding) problems.”

Marketplace, a national public radio program, analyzed federal data and concluded that Michigan is one of just eight states that spends less than 25 percent of its TANF money on those areas at the core of the “welfare-to-work” reform package of 1996: cash assistance to struggling families, work support and child care. And much of what Michigan spent on pregnancy prevention was for college financial aid.

TANF-based scholarships are now an accepted part of the education landscape, from the least expensive public universities to the most costly of private institutions. And those who push Lansing to boost state higher-education funding contend that Michigan needs more money for scholarships and grants, not less. The state now ranks 30th in need-based funding.

A proposed solution

That puts people like Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network, which advocates for making college more accessible and affordable, particularly to low-income students and students of color, in a position of advocating that TANF money stay in the college-aid budget, in part because of the state’s strapped resources.

“There’s no better use of those funds to help needy families” escape the cycle of poverty, Johnson said.

But she offered a caveat: Set the “needs” threshold so that the college money stays with low-and middle-income families, putting a family median-income cap of perhaps $60,000 to $75,000 on TANF-backed grants.

Ruark, of the Michigan League, said he too does not want the state to take steps that would reduce financial aid. He wants the state to help both students and the poor.

“We certainly would not want to see financial aid reduced,” Ruark said. “What we really do want to see is low-income people and families prioritized in the budget.”

He said one of the best ways to help the poor is to increase direct cash assistance to poor families. It helps pay rent for those not eligible for subsidized housing, and it can help with transportation, he said.

Yet the number of Michigan residents receiving cash aid has fallen by more than two-thirds since 2011. In 2015, the most recent year available, an estimated 16 percent of Michigan residents lived below the poverty line.

Welfare recipients can get up to $492 a month in cash aid but the number of state-funded recipients fell to about 13,000 in 2016, down from 45,500 in the 2011 fiscal year, as the state tried to recover from the recession and following a law enacted in 2007 that put a four-year time limit on welfare benefits.

“Right now we have by far the lowest caseload since the Kennedy Administration,” Ruark said. If the TANF money now dedicated to student aid went toward cash assistance, it could help another 16,600 people in the state for a full year.

Ruark and others say the decision to divert welfare funds to college aid needs to be revisited. Weiss, the governor’s spokesman, said Snyder is open to that conversation. Finding the will – and the money--- may be harder.

“We’re now past the recession. We should be using general fund dollars for (financial aid),” said State Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. “We need to have a conversation how we use TANF dollars and use them effectively.”

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Tue, 10/04/2016 - 7:54am
Anti poverty funding has not worked in America. It created the unintended consequence of increased numbers of "comfortable poverty" where we have the lowest labor participation rate in 40 years. Sp, in theory I support use of that money for private colleges and universities. Also, let's get back to the basics and significantly reduce aid to college - this is the quickest way to lower educational costs especially at public universities. Again, when scholarships of all kinds, not related to academic merit combined with ease of student loan access had the unintended consequence of easy money for public universities that continues to cause tuition to skyrocket. Solution for access to college - make scholarship and student loans harder to attain and over the long run we will see affordable college tuition for all.
Steven Barnes
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 4:18pm
Participation in workforce is low because millions of jobs have been outsourced or eliminated by technological advances. NOT BECAUSE PEOPLE REFUSE WORK DUH !##
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 8:17am
Surprise surprise! Middle class families will structure their family finances and structure to meet requirements to get free money, who'd guess? Next thing you're going to tell us that they're doing the same thing with Medicaid to pay for nursing home care. The bigger question is why should anyone practice deferred gratification and save to pay their own way for anything?
Phil L.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 8:27am
Thanks for the article and data. Even more from the Granholm-era "creative" budget fixes. Of course, the Rs were in on it too.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 9:07am
Quoted from article: "At Olivet College in Holland, nearly 85 percent of students received a welfare-backed scholarship or grant; at Hope College in Grand Rapids.." Troubling article but you need to do a little research or proof reading.
David Zeman
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 9:31am
Craig, Thanks for the catch. Yikes. It's fixed on the site. David Zeman Bridge editor
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:01am
So to be clear, instead of helping poor college students, our government has found another way to help the rich stay rich by giving their college students more money. Wth is going on in this state. It should be against the law, but then they'll find a way to make a law that will make legal.
Barry Visel
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:03am
1. Great story for advocating getting government out of our lives. 2. Does anyone else think 40.3% is way too much for administrative costs? 3. I thought 18 year olds are considered why does their parents' income have anything to do with going to college?
Le Roy G. Barnett
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:05am
A great job of investigative reporting. Were it not for BRIDGE, who would have told us?
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:05am
Great job. Not only is the college aid to the decidedly middle class in the guise of aid to the poor troublesome, the pie chart showing such a high percentage of the anti-poverty funds really going to simply administer the program is alarming as well.
Kevin Grand
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:05am
Hmmmm, so everyone is expected to pay into the system, but some people are shocked when a segment of those same people are found to be using the very same system they paid into. Sounds similar the latest line of attack of a certain presidential race (in which both sides utilize), that I keep reading about? Here's a question for Mr. Wilkinson (or even anyone else at The Bridge for that matter): Exactly what were the rate of increases in yearly tuition at colleges and universities before the federal government created a role for itself and stepped into the picture? It should be an interesting contrast to see what those rates were compared to what we're seeing today.
David Waymire
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:31am
"As you know, there are many demands on General Fund spending, and the General Fund pie is only so big.” Bingo...thanks to massive tax cuts in our state and a decoupling of the economy from the state's revenues, the general fund has been crushed. In 2000, the state's general fund was $9.5 billion. In 2016, the state's general fund is $9.7 billion. If we had just increased it by inflation, it would be over $12 billion.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:44am
Bingo. Funny how no one seems to recognize how Snyder threw away revenue (but the business tax cuts were supposed to create so many jobs...) and now says we don't have the money. No money for roads, education, clean water, etc.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:52am
so Dave, given that Michigan is pretty much in the middle of the pack as far as spending and taxation goes amongst states, is your point that we should be at the top of the tax/spending heap or is your issue, how we allocate our existing funds? And how much more are you wanting to pay?
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 2:06pm
I find it interesting when Matt says we are right in the middle of the states as far as taxation and spending, and yet does not recognize where we fall in relation to any important quality indicators and how Michigan ranks at the bottom in all major quality of life categories. State government is imploding as we speak, along with education, health care, and our religious institutions. This is the natural cycle of things. All of these systems were built in a different time and no longer serve us well, but our current governor and legislature has mismanaged this state to the point that there is nothing left of the Michigan we used to know. I am all for moving ahead and rebuilding our once great state, but it will not be with the current bought and paid for politicians that are currently in office. This article is just one more example of manipulative state policy.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 6:23pm
Hi Bernadette, given that we're pretty much average in spending levels and taxes, and we in fact are, why do you think we can't meet all the needs you cite? Second, How much more do you want to see taken from YOUR living by the state to meet all the unending needs that you and others can come up with? What do you want to cut? And please don't be like Rick and always say to tax someone else. Thanks.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 8:41pm
Bernadette, sounds like you stumbled on the great economic dilema - unlimited wants, limited resourses. How much more of your living are you saying you'd like to give up to the state to meet this un-ending list of needs? Please don't be like Rick and say take it from someone else. What will it be for starters? 10%? 20? I'm sure this will only be the start so don't worry as shown in this article other and more folks will soon figure out how to get in line for free stuff too.
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 12:15pm
Matt, As a citizen of Michigan there is concept of the "greater good", which I am willing to support. I awake every day grateful for everything: living in the greatest country in the world, having the freedom to use my talent and ability to contribute to the good of society, benefiting from a solid education, during a time when teachers were able to use their talents and abilities to teach children. I am so disappointed by this "What's mine is mine attitude". Responsible governance and responsible taxation demands something from each of us, but this same old broken record of reduce taxes, support business is just OLD. Partisan politics is just
Sun, 02/05/2017 - 8:24pm

Thank you

Thu, 10/06/2016 - 12:17pm
,,,OLD. I wonder how happy you are Matt. It sounds like you may have all the material needs you want, but I wonder how happy are?
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 11:00pm
Bernadette, I am truly disappointed when you say, "...current bought and paid for politicians that are currently in office...", unless you know of case where politicians [such as those in Detroit who have been convicted of bribery] you are slandering a whole group of people who have been selected by there neighbors/communities to serve. You may be disappointed that the governmental system isn't improving social results [which has been true for generations], but that does not mean the individuals are corrupt. If you want good [honest] people to run you need to stop trying to bully those properly elected simply because you are loyal to the Party out of office.
Chuck Jordan
Sat, 10/08/2016 - 8:10pm
Bernadette, you stop bullying those poor elected officials.
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 11:15pm
Bernadette, I have been poor and we are debt free, I can say not struggling with debt does make it easier to be happy. The investment of time proved well worth it even when we had little, the work that it has taken too to earn wages has been very satisfying, and living on less then we earned proved to be the most important reason we were able to make the changed.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 8:46pm
If the general fund was taking in $12 billion it would still be true that “As you know, there are many demands on General Fund spending, and the General Fund pie is only so big.” And the extra money would probably contribute more to human welfare if left in private hands.
E. D.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:40am
"Trends are not in that directly. " -- Please fix this sentence.
Mike Wilkinson
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 12:49pm
Fixed. Thanks.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 12:54pm
Thank you for doing this investigation. This is the kind of reporting that the public needs. This is what White Supremacy looks like at work. People think White Supremacy is men in sheets burning Black peoples homes...yes that is White Supremacy. The more insidious and systematic form is economic. The one where Black people are painted as lazy people who don't want to work just live off the government. Meanwhile the children of the wealthy and middle class are being given welfare to attend private colleges. ??? How is this fair, how is this not White Affirmative Action? Albion College is 78% White! Calvin College is 74% White! I Thank you for the story but the racial aspect of this cannot be ignored. This is what White Supremacy aka White Chicanery looks like. You cannot tell me that the same Tea Party State politicians who scoff at funding for Detroit schools did not know this chicanery was going on. If they didn't know why didn't they know? Because White Affirmative Action is they way it is in the USA nobody looks for it because it is the norm. Disgusting!
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 1:17pm
The question I haven't seen asked is why is there any state involvement in private schools? If someone wants to go to a private school, they either come up with their own money, take out a loan, or work and spread their learning over more years. Would we hear the private schools squeal if the state tried to dictate how to run the place? You can be sure they would. If the private schools want to have more diversity in economic level, or racial level, or gender level, then they dip into their own funds and offer more needs based scholarships. Of course I guess that goes along with the free everything we see offered by one political party in the presidential race. It first started as free tuition at a public college for anyone making less than $X, then the $X got dropped and it was just free tuition at a public college. Lately the word public has been dropped from the promise and now it is just free tuition. America, ya gotta love it.
Wed, 10/05/2016 - 4:50pm
The amount to money provided per student is rather minuscule compared to total tuition. In the 60's and 70's the grant program for private schools provided almost 1/2 the tuition for undergrad students who took advantage of the rather under publicized program. I graduated from U of D in 75 and my brother from Mercy in 78 and half our tuition was state grant money. We were from a solid middle class family. When I discovered I could attend U of D and study engineering for essentially the same cost as Wayne State I jumped at the opportunity. It appears that the state has some interest in keeping the private schools in operation. It's kind of ironic for back in the 70's there was significant opposition toward the use of vouchers for school kids to attend Catholic elementary and high schools, but nothing was ever mentioned about the grants for college.
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 3:15am
Exactly my thoughts! Private means public funds. Are the private colleges offering some magical, can't-get-anywhere-else programs? I find it disgusting that the feds allow such 'creative' ways to use TANF money. I'm also disgusted with our state officials for thinking of this scam and continuing it for the last 10 years. Poor families can't afford the basics, while well-to-do families get assistance for college. Why is this okay???
Tue, 10/11/2016 - 9:04am
On the surface, it seems logical that public money should not be used at private colleges. However, the scholarship is awarded to the student and it's the student that decides what college is best for him or her. This article paints private colleges as the equivalent of the 'luxury model' of college. But consider that private colleges offer more personal attention and support services. Poor students have unique issues and I could see that they might be lost in the public university environment. I do agree that the use of anti-poverty funds for anything but assistance to low-income individuals is appalling. But I don't agree that low income students don't deserve to use state funds to attend the private college of their choice.
Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 10:31am
This program, the Michigan Tuition Grant, started in 1966 to help Michigan residents at private schools. It's been around a while. But yes, that's a very good question.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 7:51pm
Here in Pennsylvania today Hillary Clinton promised tuition free education students at state and private institutions for families earning less than $120,000 per year student loan forgiveness. To be paid by reducing benefits to wealthy (1 0/0) plus forgiveness for employment in public, government and non profits. This reduce the burden on state budgets although the burden will be no doubt be paid by the middle class.
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 8:51pm
The situation as presented by Mr. Wilkinson looks questionable, but it was the best alternative available at the time. There are always unintended consequences from well intended incentives.
Mike Middlesworth
Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:52pm
Much as I am troubled by the swing to the political far right it has taken, I feel compelled to point out that my alma mater, Hillsdale College, doesn't show up on your list. It is fiercely independent.
Kevin Grand
Wed, 10/05/2016 - 11:00am
Mr. Middlesworth, I would be very shocked if The Bridge were to ever include Hillsdale College in any future article pertaining to how it funds itself and/or regarding the makeup of its student body. IMHO, It's very business model runs polar opposite to the narrative The Bridge has been attempting to convey to its readers for some time now relating to education here in Michigan.
Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 10:33am
Because Hillsdale eschews any federal funding, it is never included in national data sets regarding finances, enrollment, admissions. They have excluded themselves; Bridge did not take them out of the data; they were never in it.
Kevin Grand
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 12:42pm
That is exactly my point, Mr. Wilkinson. You're missing the forest for the trees. How can you make an issue of "the affluent families" getting government welfare, when there is no government funding to speak of? I know that it makes for a very short article, but it is also a solution as well. Now, before you dismiss this solution out of hand, how is it that an institution like Hillsdale can be around for 172-years and not operate on the same business models as places like U of M, MSU, Central, EMU, etc.? Is it because those examples cannot or will not?
michael gonyea
Wed, 10/05/2016 - 2:31pm
Excuse me for a moment while I gag at the nausea-producing reflex that this might pass as credible journalism. Apparently, the Mackinac Center has staged a revolt on a once-respected, albeit unprofitable journalistic enterprise. Phil, have you lost your mind?
Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 10:34am
I'm missing your point here. What's the problem with the story?
Wed, 10/05/2016 - 9:32pm
struggle to understand the purpose of the article, is it about conformance to the law [is someone breaking it], is it about education [state funding for colleges], is about earning degrees [graduation rates of those receiving the aid], is it about private colleges [whether they should indirectly receive aid money], is it about the parents [their financial achievements] or the students [being responsible for their education]? There have been many articles on Bridge about how the state under funds colleges, and yet this article seems to project that certain students [based on parentage] should not receive state educational support. There was no indication that certain students are being deprived of this aid because others are receiving it. There isn’t even anything about the effectiveness of the aid, what is the graduation rate for those who have received the aid, nor graduation data using Mr. Wilkinson’s criteria. I could understand limiting who receives the aid if that aid were going to those who were not graduating and the funds could be directed to those who were more likely to graduated, but that didn’t fit this article. My confusion maybe due to my preoccupation with results [degrees], while the article focus seemed about government control of who deserves access to aid used for education.
michael gonyea
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 1:57pm
Sorry Mike. I let my gag-producing reflex get the best of me. My complaint about your piece is both simple and profound. The over use of the term "welfare money". The depth of your analysis suffers greatly from a flawed premise.
Rob Pollard
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 8:38pm
It's not flawed. TANF is commonly called welfare; the writer of this article didn't create that term. TANF funds are being used for college scholarships, particularly for families that are not remotely "needy" (which is the "N" in TANF). That's surprising to me, to say the least. So perhaps when your overly active gag-reflex calms down, you can explain why that's a "flawed premise" when it's simply a recitation of a fact.
David Zeman
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 11:35pm
Sorry, Michael, can you stop vomiting long enough to make a coherent point? What is the flawed premise?
Amy Zaagman
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 2:26pm
Thanks, Bridge for shining a light on this eggregious misuse of TANF funding. While this "shell-game" as you so aptly put it has been allowed to go on, the state has put not ONE dime of TANF dollars into real prevention of out-of-wedlock birth. We know what works - it's called health education, contraception and access to care. Women who have an unintended pregnancy are proven to disproportionately alter their life trajectory and earnings potential - impacting both them and their children. Want to talk about starting these cycles over again? College becomes a lost dream for many of them. Assuming they are income-eligible (and we lower the eligibility and make the rules tougher all the time) they might benefit from the kinds of program that TANF is intended for - housing, transportation, job training, child care but we make those programs compete with this subsidization of middle-class kids' tuition.
michael gonyea
Fri, 10/07/2016 - 10:49am
Hi guys. Happy to have attracted your attention. I hope you'll continue to tune in. Strong, thoughtful voices are needed more than ever. Excuse me while I clean myself up. There is no such thing as "welfare money." Therefore, welfare money does not exist. This, in spite of the author's insistence to the contrary has resulted in a "flawed premise."
John Hutchinson
Sat, 10/08/2016 - 11:35am
This money is given to the state on the good faith that it will go to the poor, that is spent on any thing else is just plane wrong! I find it embarshing that any one would try to justify any outher use of the money! It's like spending grocery money on beer! Ok before you try to justify any outher use remember the kids that could benefit from this federal aid.
Mon, 05/08/2017 - 4:19pm

Kids did benefit from the aid...

Chuck Jordan
Sat, 10/08/2016 - 8:08pm
Made me think of the article on Millinials feeling like they are screwed. Welfare as we know it came from Clinton; this program began under Granholm and has been continued under Democratic and Republican governments. It is just outrageous.
Dave T
Sun, 10/09/2016 - 12:01pm
Folks, Many of you are making this too political. Stop blaming. It's always been this way. I'm all for helping students get a college education regardless of income. The laws will even it out. If it's expensive, let's help out. College will never get cheaper any more than a new car or food. So let's have an educated society whether from private or public colleges. Whether here in Michigan or elsewhere. It's a better investment than paying people to stay home and do nothing. It's the cheaters we need to go after.
Thu, 02/09/2017 - 4:13pm

My daughter worked her *ss off to get good grades in high school and a great ACT score to be able to earn the both of these scholarships. (She attended a Public High School) she chose to attend Albion College because she thought that this was the best fit for her and the fact that she wanted to become a doctor and Albion was known for getting their graduates into med school. I don't see the problem with her choice to use those funds to go where she wanted to. Also she did not receive the funding from the state the 1st 2 years due to the fact that Albion gave her a great scholarship (because of her hard work) It wasn't until her junior year when we had 2 students in college that she could access those funds. She received no pell grants or other help in grants. She was 32000.00 in school loans when she graduated and I had another 24000.00 in parent loans. I am tired of people saying we need to only fund low income student, many middle class or upper class students need help also. Many students(not all) who receive the pell grants don't even finish college. She did graduate from Medical School June 2016 but now is over 300000.00 in school loans I don't see anybody wanting to help these young physicians out. Bridge Magazine I usually agree with most of your articles but this is out of line.

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:10am

So poor people aren't attending these schools, or they just have more debt after graduation? It's college, it's not going to be some utopian diversity perfectly representing the socioeconomic landscape of our state. As a college grad straddling the poverty line, yet doing something I love, I'm almost offended by the irrelevance of this article. Shame on the middle class for going to whatever school they want, while trying to provide the most value within the law for themselves? Is the proposed solution really addressing the root of this "problem." And complaining about administration costs is equivalent to complaining about the jobs these schools create, no? What about non-profit U of M health system's CEO salary and benefits practice. Write a FOIA or something and leave the private school kids alone.