The Ph.D. Now Comes With Food Stamps

May 17th, 2012

Via: The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“I am not a welfare queen,” says Melissa Bruninga-Matteau.

That’s how she feels compelled to start a conversation about how she, a white woman with a Ph.D. in medieval history and an adjunct professor, came to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. Ms. Bruninga-Matteau, a 43-year-old single mother who teaches two humanities courses at Yavapai College, in Prescott, Ariz., says the stereotype of the people receiving such aid does not reflect reality. Recipients include growing numbers of people like her, the highly educated, whose advanced degrees have not insulated them from financial hardship.

“I find it horrifying that someone who stands in front of college classes and teaches is on welfare,” she says.

Ms. Bruninga-Matteau grew up in an upper-middle class family in Montana that valued hard work and saw educational achievement as the pathway to a successful career and a prosperous life. She entered graduate school at the University of California at Irvine in 2002, idealistic about landing a tenure-track job in her field. She never imagined that she’d end up trying to eke out a living, teaching college for poverty wages, with no benefits or job security.

A record number of people are depending on federally financed food assistance. Food-stamp use increased from an average monthly caseload of 17 million in 2000 to 44 million people in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site. Last year, one in six people—almost 50 million Americans, or 15 percent of the population—received food stamps.

Ms. Bruninga-Matteau is part of an often overlooked, and growing, subgroup of Ph.D. recipients, adjunct professors, and other Americans with advanced degrees who have had to apply for food stamps or some other form of government aid since late 2007.

Some are struggling to pay back student loans and cover basic living expenses as they submit scores of applications for a limited pool of full-time academic positions. Others are trying to raise families or pay for their children’s college expenses on the low and fluctuating pay they receive as professors off the tenure track, a group that now makes up 70 percent of faculties. Many bounce on and off unemployment or welfare during semester breaks. And some adjuncts have found themselves trying to make ends meet by waiting tables or bagging groceries alongside their students.

Research Credit: ottilie

2 Responses to “The Ph.D. Now Comes With Food Stamps”

  1. Arthur Borges Says:

    They should look for work on the China Mainland. Lots of teaching and research jobs here. Pay is USD 1,200 to 2,000 + free housing & utilities + 1 international air ticket per year in a country where breakfast need cost no more than 40 cents, 640cl of beer goes for 50 cents and $10 buys a very nice restaurant dinner for two. Carrefour, Metro, Walmart, KFC, McD, Dairy Queen and more all all well-established in all the first- and second-tier cities too.

    I’ve been here for nine years now teaching college sophomores and it’s been a very pleasant heartwarming experience.

  2. Kevin Says:

    Pleasant and heartwarming. haha.

    Do you have access to the secret food gardens?

    Send me a post card with a picture of one of these on it:

    What do you do if you want to visit a website that the regime doesn’t want you to see?

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