College grads on food stamps

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.