10 percent of North Dakotans in poverty have degrees

Not shocking at all, I have far too much personal knowledge of this.

Bismarck Tribune

Many North Dakota graduate students are unemployed or working only part time, county social services officials say.

Figures from the 2000 census show 10 percent of North Dakotans living in poverty have a college degree.

The figures are part of a trend over the past two decades, state Data Center Director Richard Rathge says. The figure was 9.1 percent in 1980 and 9.6 percent in 1990.

The federal government defines poverty according to income level and family size — currently $9,800 for one person, or $20,000 for a family of four.

The proportion of college graduates living in poverty is especially high in Grand Forks and Cass counties, which are home to the state’s largest universities.

In Grand Forks County in 2000, 21.6 percent of those in poverty had a bachelor’s degree or more; in Cass County, the rate was 17.1 percent.

The high rates likely are skewed by large numbers of graduate students who are not working or only working part time, Rathge said. Social services officials in both counties said that contributes to the high level of poverty-stricken college graduates, especially if the students have children.

Ed Christ, assistant director of social services in Grand Forks County, said many jobs listed with Job Services pay from $8 per hour to $10 per hour, wages far below those in business management or the professions.

“I know there are a lot of jobs available, but they’re in that range,” Christ said. “In this area, the professional positions are pretty limited.”

“It’s those underemployed people” who tend to live in poverty despite a college degree, said Kathy Hogan, director of Cass County Social Services.

“I think jobs are changing at a faster rate than educational systems are,” Hogan said.

“There’s a rising expectation of what employers want,” Rathge said. “There’s a mismatch between their skill levels and the type of employment that’s available.”

Despite the numbers, Rathge said, a college graduate’s earnings are, on average, almost twice those of a person with only a high school diploma.

“The value of education is indisputable,” Rathge said. “I think the people of North Dakota know this, that education is the key to a better livelihood.”

Well, the main problem is the lack of “real jobs.” If you want to work fast food or retail there are tons of jobs.

I don’t know anyone with a degree that has less than $15,000 in debt of one form or another – and I don’t know anyone who can live on $9,000 as a single person.

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