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I Pay for My Degree. It Doesn't Pay Me a Dime.

Updated on April 29, 2019

Will work for food (but paying the bills would be nice, too)

Living with your grandmother is just fine. You love her, and if she needs the help, it’s totally admirable of you to put your life on hold and make sure everything is stocked, cleaned, taken care of. It’s good of you to listen to the same old stories, good of you to bare through the same questions every hour because she has stage-one dementia, and it’s downright noble of you to breathe in all that second-hand smoke, while she herself can barely toss back oxygenated air in between all those frightening coughing and sneezing fits.

So, all of that is just well and good. Good for you, you good person. High-five, a toast to you, we all wish we could be as good as you. Let’s have another high-five now, to make it ten. Putting off your career post-college to help out grandma is simply outstanding! More champagne, you ask? Aw, hell, let’s get some more champagne! To your humble, good self! To your honor!

You know what? I’m sure you love your grandma and all, but if you’re living with her just after graduating college during the Great Recession, it’s most likely because you can’t make it on your own, even with that freelance job at the writer's mill. It’s most likely that neither parent has any room for you, that you’re broke and depressed as hell, always needing to ask for money, never having enough of it, sick of it, all of it. And so, you and your debt are off to grandma’s!

She has that empty extra bedroom with all the super old clothing in it! Perfect! Get used to being treated like a child again because, to grandma, you haven’t changed that much. Oh, nobody pays you to take care of her, you know, but it’s better than being homeless. Regardless of that, you are still broke, still sweating over credit card and student loan debt, and your painfully low paychecks. Keep saving that spare change you find because, one day, you may want to buy a magical chariot (think of the symbolic or metaphorical kind) to pick your sorry ass up and eject you from planet Earth.

Gosh, even your own broker-than-broke cousin gets to live on her own, with two kids and a boyfriend, because she never went to college and works at the local bowling alley.


Be honest, this is humiliating. Especially since you could afford your own way while going to school and even before that, when you flew yourself to Europe before deciding which college you wanted to attend. You should probably just go back to school, everybody says now, but more college doesn’t sound very appealing to you, now does it?

“Well,” some tell you. “You don’t pay rent blah, blah, living with grandma. Blah, blah, blah, you don’t have to worry about food, blah, blah.”

Sorry, you inquiring minds, but grandma’s social security check can’t pay for both of you to eat. She’s got tons of property tax, insurance for everything, gas, cable, cigarettes, you name it. You’ll be on the EBT train so fast, there’s no time to cry. You’ll be taking it right to the grocery, hungry as hell, after filling out Medicaid applications and cash assistance. The crying comes in after the first two weeks, when you’re denied for cash assistance and realize there’s nothing left on your EBT card for the rest of the month. You wonder why you wasted all of it on microwavable dinners and orange soda, when you should’ve just bought rice and beans.


You’re educated! You don’t want the state to pay for your food. You want to pay for your food! You don’t want to have to stretch things out when you and grandma are low on necessities. You’re edging over to your cousin’s house to grab a cup of Maxwell House coffee beans, to get those two slices of bread for Gram’s breakfast, to briefly ask for a little bit of milk for grandma’s coffee, and maybe hint about a roll of toilet paper on the way out, just to tide you over until your funds come in tomorrow.

EBT. Electronic Benefits Transfer. Medicaid. Welfare. Cash assistance. SNAP. Are these what they call entitlements? Those politicians? Are those what they’ve deemed evil and should be canned? Hmm… Isn’t it an entitlement to get your father’s franchise because you’re his son and he happened to have one before he died? Aren’t there entitlements for Americans, like the freedom to speak our minds and the right to carry guns, simply because we were born here? Entitlements seem good. Why are you hiding your entitlements from everyone you know, for as long as you possibly can?

You’re sending out resumes to every star in the sky. You’ve written so many cover letters, you have one for every possible job out there. You borrow money from mom just to look presentable. You drink your grandmother’s dirt coffee just to have more energy so you can think of ways to not be a loser, when all you can really think about is how your stomach hates you. All this trying, all this nothing happening.

At the end of every day, you’re up late in bed wondering why that college degree seems like nothing but a worthless liability. A $50,000 liability. If you could only return it to the school you got it from and just make peace with the banks that “helped” you get it. If you could do that and then ask those same banks for a job as a teller, since you’d be qualified then, because right now, you're over-qualified.

At least you have a bed?

Grandma can sense your irritability. She even gets snappy at you, grumpy, because you’re a pain to live with. Your family doesn't get it, either. It all makes you feel worse, like they don't love you, even though you know they have no clue what you’re going through. They can’t understand why you’re always worrying about money, never having any. Grandma asks about it from time to time, so you tell her you have bills to pay. She laughs and asks how you have any bills to pay when she pays them all. You tell her you went to college and how much it cost you and the look on her face is almost worth the $50,000 you borrowed.

“I wouldn’t pay that much for a house!”

She’s right. Why did you just assume it would get you a well paying job? Because everyone told you it would? When did you start listening to everyone?

Grandma never remembers what you’re stressed about, so just smile at her more.

Make her smile back.

Make yourself a pleasure to live with.

Be a better person.

“What’s for dinner?” she asks.

Quick, think of something to say without saying, “Well, there’s one last meal in the freezer.”

Just say anything that sounds appetizing, she’ll only ask you again in 5 minutes. Give it to her the fourth time she asks and hope to Heaven she enjoys it because all you’re getting is orange soda.

© 2012 B DeGroat


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