Not Quite Lifelong Learning

Ruthie is a twentysomething single mother pursuing higher education. She worked her way to a B.A. with the help of two or three jobs and state financial assistance for child care, since three jobs can still leave you below the poverty line. She and her three-year-old Little C (the Duck Whisperer) have now moved, leaving behind their friends and small college town for the big city, where she has been accepted as a graduate student in media ethics.

But the cost of living is high in the city, and she is still poor, since grad students are never paid enough (even as full time Teaching Assistants) to support a whole household, and certainly not enough for child care to cover class and study time. Despite this, there is no childcare assistance available from the university or from the state for parents earning a Master’s Degree.

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “If I were to drop out of school tomorrow and get a job at Burger King, the state would pay for my child care?”

“Yep,” [my caseworker] said.

“But not as a grad student?”

“Nope,” she said.

–Zaftig, An Arbitrary Standard

So the system provides help for parents’ education, but not if they aim too high. Sounds like someone’s legislator needs a copy of Nudge.

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