(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class

By Nan Mooney | Go to book overview

3
COLLEGE PROMISES

Real Debt and False Expectations

When Charles, forty, graduated with his PhD in clinical psychology seven years ago, he dreamed of getting the sort of job he has now— working as a faculty member at one of New York's top medical schools doing research on the human brain. The position, though high in prestige, pays a more modest $60,000 a year, an income he supplements by teaching as an adjunct professor and seeing private patients, though his contract with the medical school limits him to patients referred by the school at its discounted rates.

Charles's wife, Jessie, has an equally impressive educational slate, having earned her master's in social work from a top-notch West Coast university. Though Charles won a 50 percent tuition remission and both of them worked—restaurant jobs, teaching, temping— throughout their schooling, the couple had to take out $130,000 in loans to pay for his PhD and her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Jessie spent three years working as a full-time psychotherapist for a company that provided government agencies with in-house therapists. She took ten months off when their daughter, Teresa, was born three years ago, then went back to work, placing Teresa in full-time day care. But when their son, Nat, arrived two years later, combining work and parenting seemed a practical impossibility.

“We paid about $1,300 to have Teresa in good child care we felt comfortable with” Charles explains. “Even working full-time, Jessie's income as a clinical social worker would barely be able to cover that sort of cost for two kids.”

Though Jessie likes being able stay home with the kids, the cou

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