These days, Kaye is more likely to be found working in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood than in front of a camera. She has left modeling for a new career: social work. On Monday, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a master's degree in social work.
"I think in my heart I have a real compassion for oppressed and poor people," said Kaye, who grew up in Boston.
She is not alone. Across the country, enrollment in graduate schools of social work is climbing again, after almost a decade of decline. What's more, a number of new students are former lawyers, brokers, advertising executives and even doctors who have decided that profit alone is a poor reason to work.
"We can't all work on Wall Street," said Michael Austin, dean of Penn's School of Social Work, "and the growing realization is, 'Why would you want to?' "
Long hours in a high-pressure corporate job may not hold the attraction it did a few years ago, especially when "on your way to work you may have to step over people sleeping in your doorway," Austin said.
Social-work enrollment was up 50 percent at Penn last year, and Boston University established its first waiting list in a decade. Social-work schools at Columbia University and Bryn Mawr College also reported increases, and the University of Chicago was deluged with 200 applications for 30 slots in a new night-school program.
The reasons, say college admissions directors and administrators, can be partly traced to growing concern for social problems such as homelessness, AIDS, unemployment and child abuse. Volunteerism has returned to college campuses, and there is hope that after eight years of Reagan administration cuts in social spending, a new administration might reopen the federal pocketbook.
Equally important, new laws regarding licensing and billing procedures have made it possible for social workers who open private counseling practices to earn more money.
And the field has changed. Today's social workers are running employee- assistance and stress-management programs for major companies, and working in government to set social policy and develop legislation.
All those factors have pushed enrollment up.
In some ways "it's a reaction to the Me Generation, that all I want to do is accumulate enormous amounts of money," said David Yam, assistant dean at the Columbia University School of Social Work. "Young people are disturbed by what is happening to the disadvantaged."
Since its beginnings, social work has attracted those with a strong sense of compassion and justice. The profession, at its base, is an attempt to help the less fortunate through life. The peak came during the 1960s, when thousands of social workers fought the War on Poverty.
But enrollment in graduate schools of social work fell in the late 1970s and kept falling as the Reagan revolution took hold during the 1980s. Massive cuts in social spending, and in college financial aid, led students away from social work to pursue more lucrative careers in business and finance.
"People were encouraged to help themselves, as opposed to helping others," said Ken Schulman, director of admissions at the Boston University School of Social Work.
And today, though the number of students going into social work has increased, colleges haven't made up the ground they lost during the last decade. At Boston University, for instance, enrollment peaked at 188 students in 1979. That plummeted to 94 students by 1986 before rebounding to the 125 projected for this fall.
Social work remains a low-paying profession. A majority of the nation's 400,000 social workers are employed by government, usually a city or state welfare agency or a hospital.
Those in clinics and hospitals earn between $26,000 and $28,000, and other social-work salaries go as low was $21,800, according to a 1987 survey by the National Association of Social Workers. The 1988 American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries estimates that some social workers earn as little as $16,600.
"I don't need to be rich," said Kim Cohen, 20, a junior in the social work program at the University of Wisconsin. "Money is an issue to me, but I wouldn't do something I didn't want to do just to make more money."
Her views are reflected in the kinds of students entering the field.
"We have two attorneys and three Ph.D.s in our master's program," said Philip Hovda, dean of students at the University of Chicago School of Social Work. "They had very successful practices. They just didn't find it fulfilling."
Rebecca Bulmash spent two years at a New Jersey bank after college graduation, buying and selling stocks in the bank's dividend-reinvestment division. She figures that she eventually could have earned $50,000 a year.
But she found herself growing distant from people and their problems, an uncomfortable feeling for someone whose mother survived the Holocaust and whose scientist father worked helping Costa Rican children.
"I became very disillusioned," Bulmash said. "In the banking world, I wasn't finding any meaning."
Bulmash, 25, of Flint, Mich., recently completed her first year of social- work studies at Penn, where she counsels women on everything from rape to problems with professors.
"The money is almost secondary for me," she said. "Job satisfaction is far more important."
Yet recent changes in state laws have given Bulmash, Cohen and other social workers the potential to earn much more money. About two-thirds of states now permit licensed social workers to receive third-party reimbursement from insurance companies and governments, enabling them to compete with other therapists in private practice.
The number of social workers in full-time private practice is small but growing, according to the National Association of Social Workers, and their salaries reflect their new independence: an average of $31,100 during 1986-87.
Private practice can be an attractive option for students who enjoy counseling but do not want to invest years of study in psychiatry or psychology. The social workers' association estimates that roughly half its 115,000 members are involved in some form of private practice, even if it is only weekend or evening counseling.
College officials point out, however, that it is usually only the best and most experienced who can sustain full-time private practices, and students generally are discouraged from hanging out a shingle soon after graduation.
Amy Zweiman, 23, does not plan to go into private practice when she graduates from Boston University next year.
But Zweiman, who is originally from Lower Merion, said she believed she still could make an important difference in people's lives. She wants to work in an employee-assistance program, helping workers overcome drug abuse, alcoholism and family problems.
"The doctor sees you've got a broken arm, the social worker sees you've got a broken family," she said. "It's human services, but it's not the traditional social work, 'Work with the poor and save the world.' "