Struggling Worker on Verge of Food Stamps With College Degree Sparks Debate

A college graduate and struggling worker recently took to Reddit to vent that they are on the verge of using food stamps, which sparked a conversation about appropriate pay and the struggle to get ahead.

The viral post, which has 8,600 upvotes and over 2,000 comments, was posted to the subreddit "Antiwork" on February 15 by u/weddingthrowawayhey. The post is titled, "I have a college degree, and I'm about to go on food stamps."

The original poster (OP) went on to reveal they graduated from college around five years ago. Since graduating, the worker hasn't made more than $15 an hour. Currently, they work for the state government for $15 an hour. Although the OP has been looking for a new job for two years, they can't find anything that pays "decent."

The OP recounted their struggles, as they tried going on a lease assistance program as rents keep rising. They expressed most "decent places" don't accept lease assistance, and the OP said you can consequently only get it living in a "dump," at least in their home state.

The worker said she was going to start donating plasma to make extra income. Despite being on the verge of getting food stamps, the OP thought they may make too much to qualify.

The OP continued: "Which is asinine. I can't make a dent in my student loan debt because I barely get paid enough to afford my bills. The job search is going better, but I keep seeing places requesting five years' experience, but only paying like $35K?"

They revealed they were venting, saying they worked hard in school and were top of the class. However, it got them "nowhere."

In an update, the OP said they wouldn't say what their degree was in at first as people were "using it as an excuse to blame me instead of the system. It doesn't matter if my degree is in science, or engineering, or communications, or anything else. You're missing the f**king point."

However, in a second update, the OP said their degree is in marketing. They revealed they lost their first job after college due to COVID-19 when the business closed, saying it's been "impossible to get another one." They also had choice words for the people who "badgered" them to mention what the degree was in.

Sad woman
A struggling worker on the verge of food stamps with a college degree has sparked a debate online. Here, a sad and stressed-looking woman with her hands clasped together touching her face. GETTY/MANGOSTAR_STUDIO

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federal nutrition program providing food assistance to people with low income.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2019, SNAP reached 38 million people in the United States or 12 percent of the total population. About 42 percent of those who participated are in working families.

Numerous people rallied around the OP, and many found themselves in similar predicaments as well. One person recounted they graduated five years ago, and they are working for that same university now. However, "they don't pay me enough to live in the city where the main campus is located. It feels like a slap in the face when my own alma mater sees the education they gave me as not worth enough to live."

One thought it's all a "scam," saying they always did the "right thing," working hard at any job they had. But they stressed: "Connections are key. That's it."

Many revealed their own stories of struggle after college. A Redditor received a degree, but every potential job wanted three or more years of experience with the diploma. "It is completely absurd. Takes four years to get a degree. How the f**k am I supposed to also have years of experience at the job if I also had to get the degree?"

Another user sympathized with the OP in their plight. "I feel this in my soul," they said. "I have a degree and make less than $35,000 a year and have money, but not enough money to save and move ahead the way I'd like to. It is a weird level of poverty to be in."

One person revealed they used food stamps with a surprising job title. "Was on SNAP as a university professor," they said. "Education level is irrelevant when the system is set up to screw you."

Some people had kind words for the OP. "This isn't your fault, any more than this is any of our faults," a Redditor expressed. "This story is all too common for far too many people between the ages of, oh, 20-45. The employment system is broken, the education system is broken, our values and culture are broken. America is broken."

A Redditor thought the minimum wage "needs to be a livable wage." They also added, "I'm sorry you're struggling. This is why many people choose to stay in lower-paying jobs because they can only afford to live if they get financial assistance."

Newsweek reached out to u/weddingthrowawayhey for comment.