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.”