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PhD And On Food Stamps; Why This Graduate Is On Welfare


Tony Yang is one of many young professionals that are finding themselves in increasingly hard economic times.

With a PhD in History from the University of California, Yang has no permanent job, no stable income, and without the help of the government, no food to put on his table.

“It can be very tough on the pysche,” he told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “The darkest moment had to be when I finished my dissertation. I turned it in and there (was) no job … So when I graduated, the first thing I had to do was file for unemployment.”

Often kids that grow up in a low-income environment find themselves working their whole lives to provide a life for their kids that they never had growing up. Little did Tony know that shortly after he received his doctorate, he’d be requesting the same food stamps as an adult that his family had received as a child.

Tony is certainly not alone.

With over 22 million Master degree holders, close to 360,000 of them have applied for food stamps by 2010.

While the rising costs of those educations are certainly a factor in contributing to the debt that has overwhelmed these graduates, factors such as raising a family and unstable teaching jobs are causing a direct disconnect in the security of their finances.

“Others are trying to raise families or pay for their children’s college expenses on the low and fluctuating pay they receive as professors off the tenure track, a group that now makes up 70 percent of faculties,” the Chronicle’s Stacy Patton writes. “Many bounce on and off unemployment or welfare during semester breaks. And some adjuncts have found themselves trying to make ends meet by waiting tables or bagging groceries alongside their students.”

Like Yang had already done, Ginger Dean was on track to earn a PhD in her respective field. It wasn’t until Dean fully grasped the weight of the $120,000 expense that she realized that this wasn’t the the best choice for her.

“While I was accepted to a few programs, shelling out $80-$120k in extra student loans for a $5k annual difference in pay wasn’t worth it for me,” she said. “I also had to consider the years I would spend in school (4-7) and the lost opportunity for full time income during that time as well as the harsh reality that the increase in salary and total amount paid in student loans isn’t worth the “prestige” of having a doctorate.”

Yang echoes the feeling.

“The joke is, yeah you have prestige,” Yang said. “But you can’t eat prestige.”

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17 Responses to “PhD And On Food Stamps; Why This Graduate Is On Welfare”

  1. Gene Stephens

    An education does not automatically qualify you for a job. You need a marketable skill. Learn something that someone is willing to pay you to do and you will not need government assistance. Become a skilled tradesman. I know mechanics that make more than a college professor.

  2. Rick Bauer

    So, listening to a bunch of left-wing idiots who purport to teach history, or who want to use their perch in academe to foist their version of reality on the rest of us (at higher than the current rate of inflation) for their tripe is NOT a good career move? Really? Absolutely incredible! When do these colleges start getting sued for false advertising, fraud, brainwashing, abuse of minors, and just plain stupidity? When do college administrators have the ethics and gumption to start telling people who are going to spend upwards of $100K on 4 years of this crap that they MAY NOT ACTUALLY BE GETTING PREPARED FOR THE REAL WORLD?

  3. Markus Ismael

    I said something similar to a friend of mine over dinner last week at New Hope while discussing college loan debt. The problem isn't the rate of the loan…the problem is people are majoring in worthless majors. You have to be able to get a job with your degree, so you can pay them off….this is not brain surgery or rocket science…..although majoring in medicine or engineering WOULD get you a job, unlike majoring in psychology, music, philosophy, or history. I majored in Information Technology, and the G.I. Bill paid 75% of my tuition…the rest I paid out of pocket, so no debt. My chosen career is so sought after, I was able to get a job in my field BEFORE I had my degree!

  4. Markus Ismael

    My friend is a pathologist and runs his own practice. He already paid off his college loans.

  5. Rick Bauer

    yup…….informed consent for all art history majors…they know they will never have a job. But we are asking people who are paid to recruit people to take these worthless classes to be the ones to tell them that they are economically worthless. If this was a mortgage application, these teachers would be in jail.

  6. Nathan D. Whitney Sr.

    I for one can appreciate the feedback I've read because Lord knows I absolutely hated taking History in college. What a major waste of time; however, this guy cannot receive a do-over. He's stuck with a worthless Doctorate and student loan debt. Nevertheless, he's still in need of gainful employment and I commend him for not being one of the millions of people in our country who intentionally abuse the welfare system simply because they are too shiftless and lazy to earn an honest living, forcing the hard-working taxpayers to foot the bill!

  7. Markus Ismael

    Gone are the days of "a gentleman and a scholar", unless you're Mitt Romney.

  8. Markus Ismael

    Gone are the days of "a gentleman and a scholar", unless you're Mitt Romney.

  9. Robert Larson

    So because you can't get the job you want. It's beneath you to take any job that will pay as much if not a little more than welfare and food stamps.

  10. Mary Guzzy

    The society that considers history, music, or philosophy worthless is a doomed society. The problem is not with the student's choice of a field of study. The problem is with a society that places a high, but short-term value on worthless things (and jobs that will be obsolete or require expensive re-training in five to ten years), and devalues disciplines that strengthen the foundational tools of critical and innovative thinking, and stimulate the creative part of the brain that does real problem-solving. Of all of the serious misplacement of core values in our society, the most egregious in the past 20-30 years has been the undermining of education in the U.S. I believe the cost of education, relative to the stagnant entry-level salary range, is a huge problem, but is a situation that has been engineered to paralyze the middle and working classes, along with the outrageous costs of housing, transportation, health care and food — all the necessities on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, without which one cannot hope to achieve much more than a scramble for survival. Meanwhile, decision-making, knowledge, power, and wealth become more highly concentrated in the hands of a small elite. At the same time, the dumbing down of much of higher education has produced a lot of Ph.ds who are not truly educated or qualified, because they have not been held to rigorous academic standards. When 70% of faculty are non-tenured or have no hope of being tenured, because colleges have adopted a corporate business model for operations due to declining public aid, the teachers are dependent upon good student evaluations to continue being re-hired year to year. Therefore, teaching turns into a popularity contest, instead of teaching.Teachers become Customer Service reps, and not educators. Further, people who have no health care or retirement benefits are in a constant state of uncertainty about the basic necessities of life. How effective can they be as educators? And, so a vicious cycle ensues: parttime faculty, sometimes piecing together two and three jobs to make a single income, making it easy on students so they'll get high evaluations, turning out students with degrees who have not really done the work to earn those degrees. The problem is so much more complex than "left-wing idiots" or "worthless degrees." But, the simplistic response is illustrative of the deterioration of critical thinking skills that is epidemic in the U.S. today.

  11. Jan Briney

    They won't hire you for those low level jobs with a higher education. They won't even look at your application if you are over educated for the position.

  12. Jan Briney

    Maybe someone will see this and offer him a job he deserves.

  13. Teresa Smith

    So sad! My daughter is about to graduate with a bachelor's. Degree in criminak justice and psychology :wants to go to masters school. But is scared there will b no job for her when she is done

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