From NYU to EBT


When you go $95,000 into debt for a graduate degree, chances are you’re not expecting to find yourself standing in line with people who might not have even earned their high school diploma.

But that’s exactly where NYU Journalism grad student Ryan McLendon found himself just a short time ago. The New York Times’ City Room blog published a recession profile on Ryan McLendon and his quest for government aid.


For five years McClendon lived on loans and with less than three months left to graduate the aspiring journalist had to make a choice: take on more debt or find another means of assistance.

McLendon chose the latter and in addition to applying for food stamps, he cut his food expenses by eliminating meat from his diet. And as he told the New York Times: “I have a Google filter on my g-mail to let me know when N.Y.U. food events are happening.”

McLendon’s plight what lands on his plate has sent fear throughout his fellow students.

NYU Local wrote:

It is unfair and terrifying that a fellow student, with a degree supposedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, has to get by on food stamps that he waited seven hours in line just to apply for. The fear of ending up in McLendon’s situation is what has NYU journalism students contemplating LSAT classes amongst other acceptable alternatives to starvation.

As a journalism major myself, I’ve had to ignore critics who claimed I’d be working at Burger King with my degree. The debate over whether or not to pursue what matters to the heart or the wallet has intensified since the recession – particularly among writers.

McClendon says if he can’t find a reporting job (which is likely) he’ll turn to serving and freelance in the meantime. As of now he averages $450 a month in freelance earnings. In New York that’s just the right amount to score a cot between the dude professing about the apocalypse and the woman singing Chaka Khan for spare change in a mid-town train station.


Should McLendon and others like him be more practical in their career choices or pursue their passions? Or: Unless it’s an MBA or JD is grad school worth the time and debt?

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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.