from The Northwest Florida Daily News
A rise in college attendance coupled with downsizing, outsourcing and a shortage of high-paying jobs is bolstering the ranks of the educated poor, people with college degrees who don't earn above the national poverty line, economists said.
"It's rough. It's actually embarrassing," said Michelle Donaldson-McIntyre, a college-educated single mother who earns about $15,000 a year as a teaching assistant in South Florida. "I struggled to get a higher education. I did it with my kids; I did it working two jobs. I have higher expectations of myself, I want more."
She said she will have to sell her home and move closer to relatives who can help take care of her two children while she pursues a bachelor's degree that will allow her to teach.
According to recent U.S. Census estimates, the number of college graduates earning below the poverty line has more than doubled in the past 15 years to almost 6 million people.
Florida's average of educated poor is slightly higher than the national average. In Palm Beach and Broward counties, college-educated poor outnumber poor high school dropouts.
Jared Bernstein, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said about 16 percent of U.S. college graduates are working jobs that don't require a degree.
"That's squandering a resource," he said.
The problem is more acute in Florida where the state economy is powered primarily by tourism and retiree industries with an abundance of service jobs and not high-paying jobs, said Dave Denslow, a University of Florida economist.
Employment experts said that forces graduates to lower their expectations.
"What I'm finding is more and more people who are underemployed," said Mike McLaren, a career consultant for Workforce Alliance in West Palm Beach. "Someone might have a master's degree but they're working as a retail salesperson."
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