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Old 09-21-2017, 08:11 PM
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Cool It Pays to be a Working Student

One thing that most heavily struck me during my time in prison is just how many high school drop-outs there were, and how highly lack of education correlates to a life of crime.

We all know most prisons offer at least the GED program for those who don't have their high school diplomas yet, but you can't really do much with just a GED (or even high school diploma) -- the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports have consistently shown that non-college grads earn significantly less than do their college grad counterparts over the course of a lifetime. Not only that, but the unemployment rate is considerably higher among non-college grads, making it that much harder to find work, competing with so many other applicants, even without a criminal record.

For those who have never gotten around to go to college, I want to share some good news. There is help available -- considerable help, in fact -- especially if you are willing to supplement any government benefits with even low-paid part-time work. The sweet spot, it seems, to maximize benefits while leaving you the most time for your studies is to limit your income from any part-time work to around $1000/month. Make much more than that, you start to lose benefits. Make much less than that, and it can be hard to afford to support yourself on your own, even with benefits.

So if you're just getting out of prison and don't know what to do with yourself, aim for around $12,000/year in gross annual income while you pursue your studies, either full-time or at least half-time (6 credits or more per semester). Junior (community) colleges can be a great affordable option to get the first two years of your core coursework taken care of, before transferring to a more costly four-year university to finish up your undergraduate studies.

Just out of curiosity, I added up all the support I'm currently receiving and was shocked by just how much of a "force multiplier" it really was:

$12,000 - Income (24 hours per week @ $9.50/hr.)
$6,416 - Pell/SEOG Grants
$3,888 - Obamacare Advanced Premium Tax Credits
$2,184 - Food Stamps
$1,000 - Voc. Rehab. Tuition Assistance
$302 - LIHEAP winter heating assistance
$300 - Free Obamaphone (versus $25/mo. prepaid plan)

Add it all up, and it comes out to $26,090 total annual income, effectively turning that $9.50/hour job into a $18.58/hour job! Almost doubling your income! And that's without even taking out any student loans! If you don't have the luxury of being able to live with family while you work part-time and go back to school, you can always supplement that income further by adding a federal direct subsidized loan (that you pay 0% interest on until you are done with school) and easily afford a place of your own while you focus on your studies.

Anyway, just another option to consider for those currently stuck working a dead-end job who would like to become more productive and have more doors open for them in the future. So many jobs these days require at least a bachelor's degree as just a standard baseline anymore before they will even consider applicants. Can't hurt to make yourself more marketable, as having a college education is still the surest way toward earning a living wage long-term.
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