College grads on food stamps?
It's a headline on the MPR website that certainly hits you like a bucket of water. College isn't supposed to leave you so destitute that you need to be on food stamps -- now known as SNAP, but that's the situation facing some college grads, the story says.
How is this possible? Easy. You don't find a job, or you find one that way pays lousy wages.
In order to get food stamps, you can't have more than $2,000 in the bank -- few college grads do -- and for a one-person household, the maximum amount you can gross in a month is $1,180. Assuming a four-week month and a minimum wage gig, you would need to work at least 47 hours a week (for a large employer) to not be eligible for food stamps. If you work for a small business, you'd have to work 56 hours a week.
The young grad in the story gets just $56 a month in benefits, so using the calculations described on this page, her net monthly income is in the vicinity of $500 a month.
Another person in the story is getting $200 a month, which is the maximum amount of food stamp assistance. She's making next to nothing.
A writer to MPR this morning asks if people who graduated 20 years ago would've similarly been eligible for food stamps, but a few things have changed since 1992. For one thing, people were able to put their college degrees to use in 1992, though not by much.
The unemployment for people with a bachelor's degree in 1992 was 3.2%. In July 2012, it was 4.1%, jumping to 7.1% for people with some college or graduates with an associate's degree.
In 1992, according to HealthGuidance,org, "the average food stamp household size was 2.6 persons with an average monthly gross income of $472 and an average monthly net income of $261; half the households had gross monthly incomes of less than $500. Almost 77 percent of all households had no countable assets and another 18 percent had countable assets of $500 or less. Those food stamp recipients who were able to work were working or otherwise meeting the work requirement--for example, by being in training or receiving education."
Factor in inflation, and it's clear the program hasn't risen to meet today's college grads. Today's college grads -- at least the ones who haven't been able to put their degrees to use -- are lowering to the program.
I'm pretty sure that SNAP was not designed for college grads to entertain their friend with, as indicated by the lead story. Maybe she should either not entertain her friends with food stamps, or keep quiet about that aspect, or drop the handout and entertain less. But, to proudly proclaim that food stamps help her have parties, is, well, wrong and disqualifying.
I'm curious why you changed the wording of having dinner with roomates to "parties" and used "entertain." Neither of those words appear in the story and neither is appropriate in this context. I would think pooling food and resources with roommates would be an economically appropriate thing to do. But you changed it to, I guess, indicate waste and frivolousness. Why?
As for the purpose of food stamps, the purpose was to help feed the poor. If you can't find a job or you have one that doesn't pay a living wage, are you not poor just because you have a college degree?
It's interesting that one of the people who was interviewed was working for Americorps. This is a wonderful program that employs people at very low wages to do a lot of interesting jobs that society doesn't seem to have enough money to get done otherwise. Some of the Americorps people work with students who are not reading at grade level, for instance, and the job is excellent experience but pays very little!
"Yankosky, who uses food stamps, likes to cook and prepared the meal for her friends".
Okay, not parties, but not roommates either, my original statement still applies.
I am a recent grad (go gophs) and after two years, still looking for work in my field. I have the good fortune to have a wife who can support us while I search, but no handouts for us..
Certainly SNAP is a good program, and I have no qualm about who receives the benefits, and am a big supporter of local farmers markets taking SNAP, this is great and moves folks into being more careful about what food they purchase. I am not an absolutist with these types of entitlements, but again, to flaunt giving away food meant for personal consumption is not how the program works (or should work).
//Okay, not parties, but not roommates either, my original statement still applies.
How have you determined they're not roommates?
//I am a recent grad (go gophs) and after two years, still looking for work in my field. I have the good fortune to have a wife who can support us while I search, but no handouts for us..
Because you have a wife to support you. and she has a job.
How'd you pay for college?
// to flaunt giving away food meant for personal consumption is not how the program works (or should wor
But, again, you're using language to portray a character of people...parties...entertaining...flaunting. I'm just curious why you need to create the portrayal to make your point? You're saying if she was eating on the front steps by herself, you'd be OK with that?
I make these points but this particular program has always drawn people who say they support it... "but..."
But they shouldn't be allowed to buy booze or alcohol. So they can't buy booze and alcohol. Or junk food ... so here are a couple of instances where people are eating healthier, making the money go further, and supporting local farmers, and then we hear words like "party" "entertain' and "flaunt" which in this case appear to combining resources to be more economical and efficient in a bad situation and eating outside with someone.
So when I hear these constant "buts" from people who preface them with "I support the program," I begin to suspect that people really don't.
It would be interesting to see it broken down by majors or fields of study. I don't mean this as a criticism of the people in the article, but what jobs are out there for people skilled in "English" and anthropology? Are those high demand fields? How are graduates doing who have a degree in engineering or computer science? To me it's less about who should receive food stamps and more about how some degrees set you up better than others for finding a job post-graduation. To each their own, follow a path you're passionate about doing, just make sure you know what you're going to do with it.
I didn't really get the reference that there waste in the ways any of the featured grads used their assitance, more power to them for eating healthy and making that choice. I'm sure that in the long run they are forced to get by with less in order to maintain a healthier choice, more power to them. I also got the impression that there wasn't a dinner party, but rather a sharing of resources together to try and make it work. Anyways...
To me this story was an example of superficial reporting with an attention grabbing headline followed by very little substance. The story grabs unto one piece of the puzzle, that college grads are increasing their share of assistance given, and runs with anecdotes that make for a nice compact radio/web bit. Where's the beef?
Economists vary, but the natural unemployment rate is pegged at somewhere around 4%, give or take depending on who you read. So, an unemployment rate among college grads of 4.1% is not newsworthy. Even the increase from the year that Bob cites, 3.2% to 4.1%, is not newsworthy. How can an increase in unemployement of 0.9% given the increase of unemployment in the overall populace be considered news? (Save for the fact that it is so LOW).
There are many angles to run with a story like this, but none were taken. What about the choice of degree? I only caught the degrees of two of the featured grads, one with an anthropology degree, and one with English. Now, those degrees are tough to get good paying jobs in during a great economy, yet alone in a recession like this. Also, I didn't hear one thing about how much student loan debt was contributing the rough financial situation of the grads. These topics have been covered by other stories true, but why not bring it all together? This story seems to leave too much uncovered in favor of something to grab attention.
The person receiving the full benefit amount is an AmeriCorps fellow. All AmeriCorps income is excluded from the SNAP budget and they are categorically eligible. This is not new since it is basically part of the program. All AmeriCorps people receive the full benefit unless they are married or on the young side and living with their parents.
As for being able to figure out how much the young woman receiving $56 in SNAP benefits makes, more goes into the calculation than just income. Housing expenses are also used. So, she may make much more than $500 a month. Someone making $1179/month could get the full SNAP benefit if they had rent of say $700 a month and paid utilities.
As for the sharing food with a roommate scenario, that is also complicated. If you eat, purchase or prepare food regularly with another person in your household, you must include their income in your SNAP household. Income limits would then be based on a two person household. If this is a regular occurrence, she could get in trouble.
As for this comment "Also, I didn't hear one thing about how much student loan debt was contributing the rough financial situation of the grads," I believe once someone starts receiving any public assistance, they can defer their student loans. It is another good reason to apply for assistance.
And I'd like to mention it isn't a new thing that people with college degrees are getting on SNAP, it is just increased. I had lots of people with college degrees as clients, as well as people with Master's and Doctorates. People from all walks of life fall on bad times.
// This story seems to leave too much uncovered in favor of something to grab attention.
And yet, it got your attention; so it some fashion it must have been news to you.
The unemployment rate is significant because the effect of being unemployed as a college grade in 2012 is, I'd guess, substantially more than being a college grade unemployed in 1992. For one thing, you don't have the size of the student loans about to catch up to you 9 months after graduating in 1992 as you do in 2012. Housing is more expensive, everything is more expensive.
So you're really digging a bigger hole in 2012 than you were in 1992.
And, as I point out, the 4.1% rate if for those with a bachelor's... not for those with an associates, and in many cases those are the degrees that should get you in the door with an immediate job of some sort; but clearly, they are not.
Sure, the story could've been about a big discussion about whether college is worth it, instead it's raised questions about struggling in 2012 as a young, educated person and the role that various programs may or may not have int hat environment.
You may think that's not a discussion worth having. I disagree, which is why we're having it.
Okay, so I stipulated she shouldn't use her SNAP benefits to pay for the evening meal for she and her friends, roommates (does it really make a difference, unless they are on food stamps too), it seems the program is not designed for this type of expenditure.
I really do not have an issue with SNAP or those who benefit from it, my issue is thinking that paying for meals (using government largess) for others is okay, when it clearly is not.
Oh, and I paid for school the old fashioned way, cash.
// How are graduates doing who have a degree in engineering or computer science? To me it's less about who should receive food stamps and more about how some degrees set you up better than others for finding a job post-graduation. To each their own, follow a path you're passionate about doing, just make sure you know what you're going to do with it.
This is really a fascinating question and gets to a critical issue -- what degrees should people be seeking?
I was reminded of the NewsCut piece on David Welna speaking at Carleton a few months ago on this subject, when he spoke of a more well-rounded education allowing him to be more flexible in terms of settling on a career.
You can make an argument, I think, that if you get a degree in computer engineering, you'll be find as long as the computer engineering business is alive. But a person with a liberal arts education could theoretically be more able to navigate the changing economy.
Whether that's true is certainly a debatable point.
Kassie: Thanks for the tid-bit on deferrment, if that is actually true, all the more reason that they should have addressed it during a story like this. If that's true, and deferrment is given, grads are now extending their indebtedness further and further into the future. Further, it eliminates one of the reasons for why there is a proportionately higher increase in college grads recieving assistance than in the other sectors of the population, which is what I thought the story was trying to dive into.
// it seems the program is not designed for this type of expenditure.
I don't see anything on the information page (link provided above) that says that. I think what is at play here is what we view as a "typical" poor person. I don't think we believe a person with a college degree can be considered poor as an uneducated, unskilled person might be.
On the other hand, if you view programs as an investment in people, who has the liklihood of a better ROI?
Some people with English degrees and the like never would have graduated from college if they would have perused engineering or computer science type degrees. If I would have been required to get a science or math degree, I would not have been successful in college and probably would have found myself on food stamps instead of working at the food stamp office after graduation.
Thanks for the information on food stamps, Kassie.
A question - does a new college grad who can't find a job get counted in the unemployment numbers? (I don't know how it works.) One Americorps fellow told me that when they are done with their year of work, they are not allowed to file for unemployment (because their contract was just for a year). Is that correct? If some people aren't counted, even if they are looking for work, how does the unemployment number give us an accurate reflection of what's going on?
I'm not an unemployment expert, but I'll play one on the internet.
Here's a link on how unemployment numbers are counted.
And, to get Unemployment Insurance, you must have left a job through no fault of your own. That means if they didn't have a job, they can't get UI. If you know a job is going to end due to something like a year long contract, you can't get UI. If you quit, you can't get UI. If you strike, you can't get UI. If you are fired for cause, you can't get UI.
I'm certain there has been times since I graduated from college that I could have qualified for food stamps. The fact that I did not use them and others did does not color my opinion of the value of the program.
As someone who graduated with an English degree from a private college in NH (one making headlines today if you are watching the presidential race, so not a bad school), I'm still glad (for the most part) that I was an English major. I'm a small business owner, I mean job-creator, and previously I worked in investments. My roommates were also English majors. One is a librarian, one works for a health insurance company, and the other is a PhD candidate in the education field. A sample of classmates with the same major? One is a successful banker, another a pastry chef (who made dessert for Obama 2 weeks ago), and another was a high school teacher.
I think we all did pretty well, thank you. Then again, we had a classic Liberal Arts education and got a very well-rounded education, so that certainly helped. As for my tuition, at the time it actually cost me less to go there than it would have to go to the U of M, though I do still have some loans that I am getting closer to paying off.
"And, to get Unemployment Insurance, you must have left a job through no fault of your own. That means if they didn't have a job, they can't get UI. If you know a job is going to end due to something like a year long contract, you can't get UI. If you quit, you can't get UI. If you strike, you can't get UI. If you are fired for cause, you can't get UI."
Kassie: Mostly. There are exceptions to each of those cases, and those go to adjudication. The system doesn't want to penalize, say, people who quit because of sexual harassment, or are locked out during a strike so that they have no choice to go back, or who are fired for a minor infraction because the employer is trying to game the system.
Your main point is right on-- the unemployment rate is not the same as the count of people on unemployment insurance. I just want to make that point in case anyone reading happens to also be considering whether to apply for unemployment insurance. Always apply.
Kat, "Always Apply" is my mantra for Food Stamps and Medical Assistance too.
Hi everyone. I'm Astrid. The girl in the article. I would like to contribute more information to the discussion. Being interviewed for MPR was quite an experience. My first reaction was that it was "contrived". But that wasn't quite right. Rather, my brother in law pointed out that the story is not about me, but I'm illustrative of a greater trend in consciousness/real-numbers. College grads, judging by personal experience and bell weathers like the thoughtcatalog blog, had a lot of conflicting ideological pressures on us to go to college in order to get a job and be considered successful but also to be independent, spirited and creative risk takers. The point in time when being told "you can be anything you want" changed to "check your dreams at the door to your future" is a grey area for me and my peers. So somewhere in there I earned an Anthropology degree which, to me, is utterly invaluable. It has inspired me to dedicate a year (and now another as I just accepted a second year Americorps position teaching English as a foreign language) to service that makes me feel like a meaningful contributer to society, bettering my community and growing in my knowledge of social - and economic - problems in a very real world way. One facet of the Americorps program is living at the income level of those you serve and we were encouraged to apply for food stamps because "we deserve it" for our 40+ hour a week work. I was allowed in my particular program to take on additional jobs which I eventually did. I soon did not renew my food stamps because I am moving to WA. The food in the photos is typical of my diet on food stamps but sources from my garden or was bought with cash. While on food stamps, the few and far between meals I did share with friend consisted mainly of made-from-scratch rice and beans. Oh and by the way, I live alone, without internet, TV, or a computer nor do I own a car. I bike. Everywhere.
On a final note:
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR 274.7) states that program benefits are to be used by the household but sharing an occasional meal with friends or parents using their SNAP benefits to purchase food for their child’s birthday party has always been deemed as a reasonable use of this supplemental benefit.
Awesome! Glad you stopped by.
Sorry, you're leaving Minnesota, though.