Seth Freed Wessler explains how your college professor could be on public assistance.
When I was an adjunct professor, I never had to apply for unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, and the like. Fortunately, I made enough money to pay all of my bills, and even to save a little, but I also never had any of the larger financial obligations that someone of my age at that time would normally take on.
So I never bought a house or a car, never got married, never started a family, and so forth. I bought my own health insurance, which I never had to use, since my health at the time was mostly quite good. In short, I never experienced the worst depths of life as an adjunct. Therefore, for the ten years that I was an adjunct, my situation wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't what I wanted.
By the way, I should add that I never met a single adjunct who wanted to work on a part-time basis. Naturally, there had to some such people somewhere in academia. It's too big for there not to be people seeking part-time employment. But you should always be wary when you see some administrator quoted as saying that many adjuncts want to work part-time. My experience tells me that such a claim is just false.
If you aren't already familiar with my blog, then you can go to my academic autobiography to read the story of my years as an adjunct.