Poor grads

A growing number of the poor are college graduates, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Nationwide, the number of poor who have attended college has almost doubled in the past 15 years on record, to more than 5.7 million. In Broward and Palm Beach counties, more than one out of every 10 adults living in poverty has a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to recent census estimates.

Educated people move out of poverty more quickly than the undereducated and are likely to earn considerably more over time. But as more and more people go to college, the value of a degree goes down, especially if the college has a poor reputation or the student has majored in “fuzzy studies.”

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  1. I very much doubt it’s the “fuzzy studies” problem. A college grad who can read and write is getting a job as a secretary, at least (which is why the secretary position is now about 80% college graduates).

    It’s also clear from the article that many different categories are clumped together. For example, many divorced white women end up working for peanuts because they’ve been away from the work force for a while. Others are merely temporarily unemployed.

    The group to be concerned about is the one that the first example comes from, and this ties in to our previous conversation–too many people who were not competent to graduate high school are making it through college.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    My husband and I both have degrees from a prestigious college but we’re considered “Working Poor.”

    Why? Because I’m staying home with the kids, and he’s in a field where pay increases sharply as experience increases.

    In a knowledge-based economy, entry-level jobs pay very little. But once someone has a few years of experience he becomes a LOT more valuable. (When my husband moves to his next job, he’ll get something like a 50% pay raise and we’ll be “Working Poor” no more.

    I read something a few years back (how I wish I could remember where that the one major difference between the “rich” and the “poor” is age…

    Young families invest a lot of time in child-rearing. They also don’t have much experential knowledge…

    However, people in their 50’s have a ton of experience, the ability to work longer hours, and no small children. So they make alot more and have fewer financial drains.

    I think if you look at a lot of the “poor” college graduates you’ll find that they have “rich” parents… and can fully expect themseves to leave the ranks of the poor within a few years…

  3. wayne martin says:

    > she can’t afford a baby sitter so she can attend
    > night classes and turn her more than two years of
    > college coursework into a bachelor’s degree.

    She should look into a distance learning program that would allow her to complete the BS/BA at home.

  4. I fit the definition of poor college graduate too. Immediately after graduation I worked at fast food places. Later I enlisted in the Army. It was not till after the Army that I got out of “poverty”. It was my Army experience and training that made me more valuable. I know several guys after college graduation who went to trade schools to qualify for decent paying jobs. Our parents were not rich, but
    middle class. I was not a fuzzy studies major. My friends were.

  5. It’s worse than that. Under the current “Yale or jail” doctrine, we’re pushing herds of high school grads into universities and community colleges, many of whom have neither the aptitude nor desire to be in a degree program. Many get shunted off to Fuzzy Studies because they know that engineering or biochemistry is not their forte. They do poorly or skip their classes, and they’re just miserable. If they do graduate, it’s with a dismal GPA indicating they’re barely competent in their field of study–not a great credential. They’d be happier and more productive (and earn more than I do) if they became bakers or plumbers or BMW mechanics or, like gbl3, soldiers.

  6. It’s good to know that the number of students coming from a poor family who finished college is growing. There are many rich students who don’t take their studies seriously.

  7. I was/am a CETA success story. I was paid minimum wage to attend vocational training that moved me from a southern cotton mill to the industrial northeast. In 18 months I became a taxpayer and no longer faced foodstamps or layoffs for the rest of my life. Sadly this instability seems to be rising again. I don’t like the vaugeness of ‘a college education’ or the idea that an educated person ‘should’ produce a better wage. I don’t think most of the working poor in this country today have actually been truely cold, hungry, and seen then children suffer social indifference. Sorry about the bitterness, but my concern is the belief that education is a cure for social woes. I think this misguided thought, the startling difference between abject poverty and good health, is not language or manners.

    Our world is changing faster than ever. Education can help that but, it needs to be focused on preparing people for a changing world and not improving their social status. We need to insure that people make it to the next step, their families stay intact, and hand life to them in doable steps. We are all parents, a book doesn’t improve biology. We are growing a culture of foster parents with a high school diploma who feel society owes them more, because a ‘Mom’ is worth 138K yearly. Maybe we should revisit family counselling and aiding young families over those crunch years.

    I suspect that a study on good health would indicate a health person had a better income than a poor person who went to college. But it means a lot more, a healthy person also had a caring family, food, exercise, shelter and a host of other benefits.

  8. Gayl K says:

    From what I have seen, it is mostly “real studies” degree graduates that are hurting. Job hiring is still about who you know more so than what you know, for I suspect, most of America. I basically make what my father did, and I have a Master’s degree and my dad was a brick mason who did not finish high school.

    I thought that through education that I could rise out of a low income family, but job hiring is still based on who you know. I am seeing alot of “fuzzy study” people with the right family connections still getting the best jobs. In my hometown, certain families still pretty much run the major companies, and their kids, irregardless if what they majored in at college, inherit the better jobs.

    I think that larger cities tend to be more fair when hiring, but for college grads that go back to their hometowns, the job pool is small and very political. I did make some good money when I lived in a large city. However, several of close family members are in poor health, so I moved back to my hometown to be near my family. So, in a way, I have volunteered to be working poor, because I have had the offers to leave my hometown and make more money. There are plenty of really nice jobs in my hometown, but the jobs are not going to be the better educated people. So if you are rich or have the right family connections, you can study whatever you want. However, if you grew up poor, a solid education may not be enough on it’s own.

  9. Leslie says:

    From the article: “But, as degrees have become more plentiful, they have become less a guarantee of success.”

    Since when have degrees been a guarantee of success? This article is in some ways a two-page whine from people who have just discovered that a college degree (here, including an associate’s) is not a bullet train to prosperity.

    I’m seeing this attitude in students in my own university as well. One recently wrote an editorial for the student newspaper expressing shock that employers weren’t flagging her down on the street once she received the magic piece of paper. The gist of her article was to warn current students that they had to do something other than graduate to be attractive to employers(!!).

  10. I agree. The increasing number of people with degrees reduces their chance of success. It’s hard to make it balanced since every person wants to be successful, especially the poor.