Article: "The Ph.D. Now Comes with Food Stamps"

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by RoscoeB, May 9, 2012.

  1. jumbodog

    jumbodog New Member

    Yes. Now take a step back and think about all the hoops you needed to jump through to buy that home. You had have money-up front, you had to have income to afford the payments, and there are truth in lending disclosures. None of those things apply to buying a degree.

    That's the problem. We allow people to borrow 100K with nothing but a signature. Well if that's wrong buying a home that's wrong for a degree, too.
  2. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    OK - My previous post was just a very bad attempt at humor.
  3. iheartlearning

    iheartlearning New Member

    Boortz wrote: "Degrees in medieval history, English, gender studies, film studies and other such fru-fru pursuits aren’t going to cut it in today’s economy."

    I'm borrowing, once again, this response from a comment posted on the Chronicle (From Graduate School to Welfare - Graduate Students - The Chronicle of Higher Education

    "Imagine that, a society in which there is no one who understands the language of any other country--will have to outsource all those UN interpreters (and if your company does business in China? Tough! None of your STEM graduates have learned Mandarin, much less Cantonese). Imagine a society in which no one knows history. Oh wait, Orwell already did that. He called the book 1984. Imagine a society in which there are no trained journalists (increasingly the future we are already facing), in which no one has learned to read critically and write clearly and persuasively (rather like many offices now, though there are still a few who can cover for the incompetence of the whole), in which no one knows anything about human psychology (so much for Marketing departments in our major corporations), in which no one knows anything of art or politics or human cultures at the macro, much less the micro level. Oh too much of the American population today." - michaelbryson

    In my own career, my understanding of English, psychology, and sociology--studied in my graduate Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages grad program--has proven invaluable and informed how I develop curricula, marketing materials, and craft written communications (emails to coworkers inclusive).

    That said, I take a balanced approach to this issue: Selecting a field of study should be a shared responsibility between learner and academic advisor.

    I do think it is incumbent upon each student to make informed decisions when it comes to the long-range utility of education credentials they might pursue. If earning a high or even a consistent or living wage isn't something a learner places significant value in (and I certainly pass no judgment on holding other values in higher regard), then the world of academic study is their oyster.

    Just as it is important that students know well what they most value, research the job market, and align their goals and values with market conditions (as far as is possible considering it's hard to predict what the market will look like in 5 years if one is just starting of their doctoral program, let's say), it is also vital that academic or career center advisors advise students to do just that. Why shouldn't academic or career advisors sit down with students to go over predicted job growth in specific fields of study, for instance, or to create a plan for how they will secure employment post the completion of their studies.

    Facilitating learning in a student's chosen field of study shouldn't be a university's only job, say I. Presumably, education credentials are sought in order to change one's life from state A to state B. Universities owe it to their students to help them understand what their desired end state is, and to study/research/plan for how they will get there (because universities are generally good at teaching folks how to study, research, and plan). Getting Degree X is only half the battle, in most cases. Some instructions on how to use degree X would come in handy before folks even embark on the degree-getting journey.

    I think most of our universities do a poor job of helping students learn what they need to know to achieve their goals once they have their degrees. What's an institution of higher learning for if not to help you, um, learn?

    Anyhow, my point here is not unlike an earlier poster's (forgive me for not recalling, right off, who it was): the responsibility for the large(r) number of degree-holders who have resorted to receiving welfare of late lands squarely on a system that is out of balance on so many levels. It seems to me that, in at least some-to-many cases, surface-level/elementary-level thinking is responsible for sentiments like Boortz's that an educated person who ends up on welfare has only themselves to blame.
  4. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    You got the part about return right. I'm not so sure it's always possible to do a quality PhD in a specific topic while holding down "a good job". In fact, top programs require that you don't.
  5. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    Priorities. Also, attitude. Not everyone feels that making 55k a year and bennies doing what they love is somehow beneath them.
    Job market in Humanities teaching was ridiculous for a long time now, and a degree in Medieval History is a remarkably bad investment. It gets worse: the article implies that this person was making low but living wage up until recent budget cuts across state institutions of higher learning.
  6. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    And why is Mediaeval History in particular being picked on?
  7. ITJD

    ITJD Active Member

    In reply to some of the above.

    1. Northeastern is not an Ivy.
    2. Harvard is.

    I should have more rightly said the Divinity School or the GSAS instead of the College.
    Kudos to those who understood and my apologies for not being clear.

    As to attitude and options, I agree that 55k is nothing to sneeze at, unless you're used to making more than that with less education. If I offended anyone, my apologies there.

  8. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    No, there is a huge difference.

    If a 21-year-old kid with a BA degree in history and no job prospects walks into the bank and requests a $100,000 home loan so that he can purchase a really nice condo, what do you think his chances are?

    He'll be rejected instantly. Well, maybe not "instantly", but as soon as the loan officer stops laughing.

    What if the same kid walks into the same bank and requests a $100,000 car loan to buy a Ferrari? Or a $100,000 loan so that he can do some serious gambling in Vegas? Are the chances good? Or are these requests equally laughable?

    OK now ... suppose the same kid walks into the same bank and requests a $100,000 student loan so that he can fund a PhD in medieval history. Suddenly it's a different story. Pull up a chair, kid. Do you want $150,000, so that you can rent a really nice condo while studying? How about $200,000, so you can go to a private school?

    Why is there a difference? Simple. Student loans are risk free to the bank -- no bankruptcy allowed. All other kinds of debts -- home loans, car loans, even gambling debts -- can be discharged in bankruptcy. So the bank's money is actually at risk if such loans go bad.

    You don't have to spend your life in "debt peonage" if you have a bad home loan. You can declare bankruptcy, mail the keys to the lender, and start over. Your credit rating will collapse and take years to rebuild, but it can be done.

    But with student loans, there is no second chance. You truly are in "debt peonage" to the bank. The bank will collect -- out of your social security if necessary. Repayment is guaranteed by the federal government (= taxpayers).

    Big big big difference. And that's why banks are happy to make absurd student loans.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2012
  9. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    No real reason. Pretty much any humanities field HE teaching market is depressing.

    ...which, by itself, doesn't mean no one should get History or Philosophy doctorate. If someone has real passion for the subject, telling them to study Nursing instead is, well, d*ckish.
  10. ITJD

    ITJD Active Member

    In response to those talking about passion for a subject.

    People talk about doing what they love to do. The reason for this is that doing what you love makes your job less like a job and supposedly, in correlation your life better.

    I would like to present my ASCII character interpretation of life being better.

    If job = correlation to passion you get this general representation of happiness.

    low|******************************* |high

    If job = no correlation to passion you might get this general representation of happiness.

    low|***************** |high

    Now we all know that money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy food. So at the very least you'll get this representation of happiness if you at least have money but are a normal person. You won't be dead.

    low|****************** |high

    But it's pretty much a guarantee that if you don't have enough money to eat, you're going to be more likely to do things that will put you in jail, or a coffin. This representation of happiness looks like this

    low|*** |high

    So if you take a high passion job that pays below the poverty level and you need to take out food stamps at best you're looking at a combined happiness range that looks like this:

    low|****************** |high

    And could be no better than this once you put up with the politics at the workplace and are eating on food stamps (mmm Ramen)

    low|*** |high

    So my honest opinion of "passion" jobs is that they're bs unless your equation looks like this at the very least.

    low|********************************** |high
    low|****************** |high
    Overall happiness:
    low|********************** |high

    Last time I checked, I've fallen in love with three women in my life and dated maybe 40. If you're a normal human being you can find something to do with your life that you are passionate enough about that allows you to eat well and have stuff. Hierarchy of needs and all that..


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