Melissa Bruninga Matteau has a PhD in medieval history, and a job as an adjunct professor, but she's still relying on food stamps and Medicaid to get by. "I am not a welfare queen," she tells the Chronicle of Higher Education. But with take home pay of only $900 a month—of which $750 goes to rent—she's only scraping by. And she's not alone. The number of people with graduate degrees who receive federal aid more than doubled between 2007 and 2010.
To be sure, the lion's share of the 44 million people receiving public aid in 2010 was less educated. But the number of advanced degree holders on the rolls has been skyrocketing, from 101,682 to 293,029 for people with their master degree, and from 9,776 to 33,655 for those with PhDs—and groups representing adjunct faculty suspect those numbers are underreported. "It's gone beyond the joke of impoverished grad students to becoming something really dire and urgent," says one academic career counselor.