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College educated now amongst the poor in Oswego County

Collegeby Carol Thompson

The story of Bob and Mary, the Oswego couple living off the equivalent of $30 a week in food benefits, resulted in a number of readers coming forward to share their stories. The common denominator? College education does not preclude poverty.

Bob and Mary worked at the same belly-up company and after exhausting their savings and selling their possessions, were forced to apply for food stamp benefits. They are both college educated and are among the county’s working poor.

They are not alone. Several readers contacted The Valley News to tell of their inability to land a decent-paying job despite having a college degree.

One reader holds a degree in sports management and has not been able to secure more than occasional part-time work. He said he receives public assistance because he cannot find full-time work in the area.

“My college advisor told me I picked a great major and that jobs were plentiful,” he said. “Jobs in my field are hard to come by. Jobs in any field are hard to come by.”

Another reader, with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, said he travels from Central Square to Cortland five days a week to earn $10 per hour.

“I can’t find anything local,” he said. “I get food stamps because I have a family to support and by the time I pay the gas back and forth, I don’t have lot of money left over for groceries. I barely manage to pay my bills.”

An Oswego County woman with a degree in accounting holds an entry level job in Syracuse and said she receives housing assistance. A recent graduate of SUNY Oswego’s journalism program is working at a fast food restaurant and receiving food benefits. Both are single mothers — one widowed and the other struggling to raise a child while her fiancee is overseas with the military.

Bob and Mary told their story because of the often rude comments they heard while grocery shopping with a benefit card. The others said they have heard those same remarks.

Bob attributes the recent animosity to those receiving public assistance to politicians.

“There was a call for drug testing of welfare recipients and all this talk about abuse and the public jumped on the political bandwagon,” he said. “The politicians changed the perception of welfare and now everyone’s a drug using cheat.”

He said while he does not completely oppose drug testing, he believes elected officials need to concentrate in other areas, including making the state more business friendly.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

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