I have a PhD, Why am I Living In Poverty and Working an Additional Job?

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How does a person like Dr. Wanda Evans-Brewer who has a PhD, end up living in poverty?

In the documentary video below, people like Dr. Evans-Brewer who has obtained a PhD in Education, the highest level of education, and who has been teaching for 20 years find themselves living in poverty.

The irony of it all is that people are pursuing higher education to prevent from ending up at the doors steps of the welfare office, but surprisingly, many that are obtaining the certifications and PhDs, are the ones ending up at the Welfare office.

Interestingly enough, there is a myth that getting a higher level of education guarantees financial security. However, statics have proven this to be far from the truth.

According to NPR.org:

In 2010, the report says, 360,000 of the 22 million Americans with graduate degrees received some kind of public assistance.

Chronicle reporter Stacey Patton spoke with Tell Me More host Michel Martin about why so many highly educated Americans have to rely on this type of aid.

One thing that is happening at universities, Patton says, is the overlap between graduate students and adjunct professors — “contingent” faculty who are working on contracts.

In an effort to cut costs, she says, universities increasingly rely on these instructors because unlike tenured faculty, they work part time, they don’t have health benefits, and they can be fired or not have their contracts renewed.

“What we continue to do in graduate schools is encourage people to take master’s degrees and Ph.D.s [to fill those positions],” Patton says. “But the economy has taken such a hit, and so has higher education, so they do their work and come out and don’t have opportunities for jobs.”

Many states have had to cut their higher education budgets, and Patton says universities defend their use of contingent faculty instead of hiring full-time faculty as a necessary way to cope.

Tony Yang received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Riverside in 2009. Since then, he’s worked on and off as a history lecturer, but has had to depend on unemployment and food stamps to get by.

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“One of the bravest things to do is to graduate into [the recession],” Yang tells NPR’s Martin. “It’s an incredibly difficult job market, and you’re constantly hustling to try and get another job.”

In his best year since getting his Ph.D., Yang says he made about $32,000; in his worst, about $10,000. He says there’s a perception that if you have a doctorate, you automatically walk into a high-paying job.

“I have the prestige of holding a Ph.D., but that [isn’t] paying the bills,” he says.

While reporting her story, Patton says she heard a number of stories similar to Yang’s, but many of those folks didn’t want to go on the record for fear of shame.

“You go to graduate school, you get a master’s degree [or] you get a Ph.D., it’s a hard thing to embrace that you’re also now on welfare,” she says. Read the entire article…

Here are the facts:

1. The corporate model in America is pushing professors into poverty. 31% of part-time college faculty live near or below the poverty line.

2. Adjuncts are contracted to work on campus, but are not given the same benefits as full-time faculty. 51% of college professors are adjuncts.

3. Adjunct pay declined by 49% from 1970 to 2008 while a college president’s salary increased by 35%.

4. Average Adjunct salary is $22,500 while a college president earns on average $410,523.

5. In 2010, 33,655 PhDs filed for food stamps.

6. 1 in 4 part time faculty receive some form of public assistance.

7. 60% of part-time professors have additional jobs.

For those who value education, we must start by valuing those who teach us.

Watch the video below:

Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center

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