(NaturalNews) Once upon a time in America, employment prospects and the chance to become much more successful in life were far better for those who had put forth the extra effort required to obtain higher levels of education. But in today's economy, where the new normal is anemic annual growth rates of one to two percent - rates that cannot lower overall unemployment but which President Obama has nonetheless tried to pass off as "moving in the right direction" - a higher level of education is no longer a guarantee of future accomplishment.
In fact, even some people who have earned PhD's are either unemployed or pathetically under-employed, which is pretty sad for the world's number one economic power.
"When job hunting in one's field turns rough," says a graphic developed by OnlineColleges.net, "college graduates may return to school for another degree. But for some Americans, multiple degrees won't guarantee a job in their field - or even keep them above the poverty level."
5,000 janitors with PhD's
Because of declining job prospects, which is tied to slow job private-sector job growth and sustained high unemployment, "more and more highly educated people" have been forced onto government welfare and food-stamp rolls, the site noted.
The figures are disturbing.
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal food stamp program, the monthly caseload has increased from 17 million in 2000 to a staggering 44 million in 2011, an increase of more than 150 percent.
Among them are some of the most educated among us - Americans with PhD's and master's degrees who you would think should have no trouble at all finding a good-paying job.
Per figures provided by the various government agencies and departments:
-- In 2010, of the 22 million Americans who had obtained master's degrees or higher levels of education, 360,000 were on some kind of public assistance.
-- Of that figure, 33,655 had PhD's.
-- Department of Labor figures show that one in three college grads works in a job the department says requires less than a bachelor's degree.
-- Overall, one in six Americans received food stamps in 2011.
The dramatic increase in the number of PhD's and other higher education Americans is just the latest sign of the "new normal" economy; with an unemployment rate of 7.8-8 percent and job creation chronically low, coupled with wage stagnation and shrinking budgets, prospects for college grads overall have been reduced during the Obama years.
"I am not a welfare queen," Melissa Bruninga-Matteau, who holds a PhD in medieval history and is currently receiving food stamps and Medicaid, told The Chronicle of Higher Education last May. "I find it horrifying that someone who stands in front of college classes and teaches is on welfare."
'I had no idea that the PhD was a path to food stamps'
Even degrees that have traditionally guaranteed a higher standard of living - law school J.D.'s for instance - are no longer sure things; the new normal economy has driven an increasing number of law school graduates into non-related fields, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Indeed, the problem may actually be worse than it appears. Many who are better educated are shamed by the experience of having to rely on taxpayer-supported assistance, which has "helped keep the problem hidden," says The Chronicle.
"People don't want their faces and names associated with this experience," Karen L. Kelsky, a former tenured professor who now runs The Professor Is In, an academic-career consulting business, told the publication.
"It's gone beyond the joke of the impoverished grad student to becoming something really dire and urgent," she added. "When I was a tenured professor I had no idea that the PhD was a path to food stamps."