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Should Professional Students Use Welfare?

My wife and I are fortunate enough to have our own health insurance. We’ve been paying about $250 a month for health and dental insurance for the both of us since we’ve been married. We’re thinking about adding a little Frugal Law Student to our family soon, so this past week we added maternity insurance for my wife and our health insurance went up another $100. So we’re now paying $350 a month on insurance. Boo. However, with my new job at Westlaw and the extra money I’ve been taking in with my blog projects, we’ll be able to afford it.

My wife and I have seriously looked into using state welfare in order to cover the cost of having a kid. It blows my mind what the cost of child bearing is. You can easily rack up a bill of over $10,000 for the birth of one child. Yikes! With our maternity insurance, it should cover most of the cost. However, we were reluctant to go the welfare route because of the emotional charge that goes along with being a married professional student on welfare. Here are some common things we hear about it.

Programs like WIC and Medical Assistance were not designed for graduate students who will be making a decent living in a few years. They are for the truly poor.

These programs are only for people who have hard times because of unforeseen circumstances. One should not plan on using them.

People have no business having children if they can’t afford to bear the cost of bearing and raising that child themselves.

As you can see, the decision to take government assistance is not only an economic one, but also a moral one for many people. But should it be a moral decision?

Take the first common thought about graduate students using welfare: Programs like WIC and Medical Assistance were not designed for graduate students who will be making a decent living in a few years. They are for the truly poor.

This thought carries the assumption that welfare programs were designed only for people who we feel deserve them. Many people feel soon-to-be-lawyers/doctors/MBA grads who will be making tons of money after they graduate don’t deserve welfare. The problem with this thought is that welfare programs are designed for people that qualify for them. If the government wanted to exclude people with certain circumstances, it could do so. It could exclude married people seeking advanced degrees, but it doesn’t. If you match the criteria, the program is designed for you. This thought also carries the assumption that all students seeking advanced degrees will be wealthy when done with school. As I’ve written before, that’s not necessarily the case.

I find it odd that many people who condemn married students using welfare to subsidize the cost of having children don’t have a problem with the government subsidizing their college education. We can make the same arguments about taking student loans that people make about taking on government assistance for child bearing. People have no business going to college unless they can pay the costs for it themselves.

Some may respond, “But an educated person is an asset to society.” So are children. Especially children who are highly likely to pay a lot of taxes over their lifetime, such as children of graduate and professional students.

But government investment in my education was just smart economics. So is government investment in the bearing of children and their subsequent health care and nutrition. More children mean more potential tax payers. Our current tax model in a large part depends on new tax payers being born each day.

In the end, I don’t have a problem with professional students taking on welfare in order to raise a family. To me, it’s an investment that we as a society make into individuals who are likely to contribute more much more to our economy in the long run. The reason Kate and I decided to pay for our own insurance is that we’re on the edge of missing the qualifying monthly income requirement. To be on the safe side, I’m planning on our income to continue increasing. I don’t want to be in a position where we don’t have any insurance at all.

What are your thoughts? Should professional students use welfare? Drop a line in the comment box.