Is college oversold? (5×8 – 11/3/11)

The case for college, you should meet Harriet Peterson, Minnesota girls are not for sale, the post-Vikings world examined, and a ride on the space station.


Are students studying the right subjects in college? Alex Tabbarok, who blogs at Marginal Revolution, stirs the Occupy pot (he objects to demands for forgiveness of student loans) by analyzing the area of concentration of graduates:

Consider computer technology. In 2009 the U.S. graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. This is not bad, but we graduated more students with computer science degrees 25 years ago! The story is the same in other technology fields such as chemical engineering, math and statistics. Few fields have changed as much in recent years as microbiology, but in 2009 we graduated just 2,480 students with bachelor’s degrees in microbiology — about the same number as 25 years ago. Who will solve the problem of antibiotic resistance?

What are they studying? Performance arts, psychology and, ummmm, journalism…

There is nothing wrong with the arts, psychology and journalism, but graduates in these fields have lower wages and are less likely to find work in their fields than graduates in science and math. Moreover, more than half of all humanities graduates end up in jobs that don’t require college degrees and these graduates don’t get a big college bonus.

Most importantly, graduates in the arts, psychology and journalism are less likely to create the kinds of innovations that drive economic growth. Economic growth is not a magic totem to which all else must bow, but it is one of the main reasons we subsidize higher education.

He argues that college can and should be subsidized for students studying the sciences, for example, but says “there is little justification for subsidizing sociology, dance and English majors.”

Discuss: Is college oversold?

Related: Community colleges: Not just for poorer kids anymore (Washington Post)


harriet_peterson.jpgSomewhere in Falcon Heights, a just-married young couple (shown in the picture) — veterans of the wars — are moving into the home that a just-married young couple, one a returning soldier in World War II, moved into 51 years ago.

Harriet Peterson, also seen in the picture, was half of the couple. She turned 99 in August and has moved into an assisted living center in Roseville. I visited her yesterday at the suggestion of Jennifer Larsen, who nominated her as part of News Cut’s “the people you should meet” series.

“She has defied so many conventions over the years, including motherhood in her 30s,” Jennifer said. She met Harriet as part of a block nurse program several years ago.

We chatted primarily about her upbringing in Thief River Falls. “We never knew depression,” she said, “because there were a lot of railroad people there. Between the railroad and the farming community, there was always something. It was wonderful. Everyone was the same — the doctors, the lawyers, the merchants — they were all the same.”

Her father was a locomotive engineer on the Soo Line. “He would have loved being a scholar and a teacher. He had his own den full of law books and political writings and when he was on the school board, he was instrumental in upping the salaries of the teachers. He thought education was so important and he said to his children, ‘you are all to have a college education.'”

“He would gather reading material and the kids would wait for dad to come by in the train and he’d throw them the reading material.”

Harriet became a scholar and a teacher; she double majored in physical education, English and theater at the University of North Dakota and taught in Thief River Falls despite her dad’s insistence that there’d be no nepotism in the town. He was on the school board.

After waiting for four years for her fiancee to return from the war, she and Hilding Peterson married and eventually he became a professor at Macalester College.

He was hockey player in his day, she was an athletic sort and loved to skate and together they did, well into her ’80s until he could no longer keep up.

She and her husband raised a family in a house in Falcon Heights in which another couple will now do the same.

That couple just wrote her a letter introducing themselves to the woman who once owned their new home. She’ll write back, she says, as soon as she figures out what she wants to say.

“I suppose when you turn 100, everyone will want to ask you the secret of life and longevity,” I said.

“I don’t really know,” she said. “I need more time to think about it.”


The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota has launched a campaign to end sex trafficking in Minnesota. It says a recent study in the state found that on any given night, “45 girls under age 18 are sold for sex through the internet classified websites and escort services.”

(h/t: Bonnie Russ)


While Europe and the rest of the world grapples with the future of the Greek economy, it’ll be another day of hand-wringing in Minnesota over the future of NFL football. The Vikings are pointing out that the lease at the Metrodome will expire before the Legislature (maybe) takes up the issue in 2012, a none-too-subtle threat to move to another city if taxpayers don’t pony up the money for a new stadium. GOP lawmakers aren’t impressed and say there’s no appetite for a special session.

Bob Sansevere in the Pioneer Press is taking a past-tense view of the issue…

Well, Minnesota could get an expansion team, as Cleveland did after the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Of course, that could take a decade or more, or it might never happen. When you factor in the cost of a new stadium and an expansion fee in the hundreds of millions, it would cost considerably more than the $1.1 billion price tag for a new stadium. Also, it’s unlikely there’s anyone in the state with the kind of money or the inclination it would take to buy an expansion team. If there were, the Vikings wouldn’t be owned by a guy from New Jersey.

That hints at the next issue to be determined — should the Vikings organization be required to leave their name and team colors behind when they head for greener — get it? — pastures? The Cleveland Browns, for example, left the name and the colors behind — under league orders — when they moved to Baltimore.

Meanwhile at the Daily Norseman, Christopher Gates riffs on Sansevere’s suggestion people root for the Packers in the post-Vikings world:

But, as this situation has gone on, my views on it have changed. When the spectre of the Vikings possibly relocating was first raised, I immediately took the stance that I would be basically finished with the National Football League if the Vikings were to leave Minnesota. However, as this whole situation has played itself out, I’ve come more and more to the realization that the Vikings aren’t the problem in this equation. Zygi Wilf (and even Red McCombs before him) have done everything the Minnesota government has asked them to do for the last decade.

Get in line behind the Twins? Okay, they did that.

Get in line behind the Gophers? Ummmmm, sure, they did that for some reason, too.

Find a willing local partner? Yeah, they’ve done that with Ramsey County/Arden Hills.

Increase their contribution to the project? They’ve done so at least once that we know of, and possibly more times that we don’t.

But that’s still not good enough for the state of Minnesota. Every time the Vikings appear to be on the verge of crossing the goal line, somebody moves the goal posts.

Gates says he would move from the state if the Vikings move.


NASA has just released a sped-up video of what the space station crew looks at hour after hour…

In the first sequence of images, recorded on October 15, the space station orbits above the cloud covered North Atlantic Ocean toward Europe. Tracking southeast, the first view of lights comes from the United Kingdom, with cities like Liverpool and London identifiable by the congestion of city lights.

Across the English Channel, the cities of Brussels and Rotterdam (left) and Paris all stand out amid a network of smaller cities in Western Europe.

The pass continues over the snow-covered Alps and to the Italian Peninsula, where lightning storms cover the southern half of the peninsula. The ISS then tracks over the Mediterranean Sea, with Greece to the left of track, northern Africa right of track, and the island of Crete. Finally, the pass finishes near the Nile River Delta and the Red Sea.

Bonus: First flight in an electric multi-copter. Try not to get hit by a propeller.


Developments in the debate over a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings are coming fast. GOP leaders are calling for open hearings to let citizens express their views on public financing for a stadium. Today’s Question: How much of a role do you think public opinion will play in the stadium decision?


Voters in 126 Minnesota school districts will see tax questions on the ballot next Tuesday. The Big Story Blog will survey the landscape for school levies across the state.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: For decades research has told us that teens do what they do because their brains don’t work like adult brains. New research is telling us more about the differences between adults and teens. What does the new research tell us? How does it help us relate to the teens in our lives? And how does it affect policies in the juvenile justice and social service systems?

Second hour: A month after the Minnesota Lynx brought home the WNBA championship trophy, the University of Minnesota is hosting a national conference on the state of women and sports. We’ll hear from experts in the field on how sports is changing women’s lives and practices that continue to hold women back in the field.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Kent Pekel, of the University of Minnesota, discusses the national “report cards” on math and reading.

Second hour: New documentary from America Abroad: “The Politics of Faith: The Role of Religion in Divided Societies.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Curbing violent crime, without jail time.

Second hour: The best American sportswriting of 2011.