Facts and Finds

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Technology hasn’t made us all strangers

“Are we really all just walking around tapping and tweeting and texting and ignoring our fellow human beings?” asks New York Times Magazine.

“Was there a pre-smartphone Eden?”

Between 2008 and 2010, a team of social researchers duplicated a decades’ old experiment in New York City to find out. They filmed the behavior of ordinary people in a public space, looking at how people acted when alone, in groups, and how much they used their phones.

Phone use was much lower than expected, ranging from only 3 to 10 percent. Researchers also found that, rather than ignoring lunch partners, the overwhelming majority of phone users were alone or passing time waiting on someone else. According to the study, “our tendency to interact with others in public has, if anything, improved since the ’70s.”

Surprised? Perhaps even more surprising was the discovery that in some areas, more people were lunching or lounging alone than in previous decades. The reason why is not that more people are loners — it is that more women were out in public. “Across the board,” the study found, “the story of public spaces in the last 30 years has not been aloneness, or digital distraction, but gender equity.”

Source: NYT Magazine, January 17, 2014

Where the jobs are now

Skills in computer technology, medicine and manufacturing will never go out of style.

That’s what Michigan State University’s 2014 nationwide hiring survey indicates, with employers looking to scoop up approximately 120,000 new graduates in technical fields. Most in-demand are those with degrees in STEM programs – science, technology, engineering and math.

“Employers are recruiting new college graduates at levels not seen since the dot-com frenzy of 1999-2000,” said Phil Gardner, director of MSU’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. “Competition for qualified candidates is escalating to a degree rarely seen in the past 10 years.”

A separate study by Economic Modeling Specialists International, a division of job site CareerBuilder, confirms the findings, projecting the creation of 1.8 million new high-skill jobs by 2017. STEM jobs account for 38 percent of the new jobs, and are typically the highest paying across all industries.”

The Michigan State survey finds six sectors of industry expect double-digit hiring for bachelor’s degree holders: non-profits, manufacturing, government, professional services, finance and insurance, and information services all anticipate hiring increases of between 16 and 51 percent.

Look before you leap into college

Nearly one in three graduates of for-profit colleges say the high costs of school weren’t worth the education they got, according to a 2014 report by the non-profit research group Public Agenda. A parallel survey of community college students found they were significantly less stressed about finances than their for-profit counterparts.

One reason why is the difference in debt loads. A 2012 Senate investigation found that fully 96 percent of students at for-profit schools took out loans — a rate more than seven times that of students at community colleges!

Many for-profit students don’t know the vast cost differences between colleges before enrolling. Just 39 percent of students at for-profit schools looked into more than one institution before attending, and only 20 percent considered a not-for-profit school before signing up for classes, Public Agenda found.

Want to compare colleges by cost, size, awards, and other criteria? Try the White House’s College Scorecard: Whitehouse.gov/issues/education/higher-education/college-score-card.

Sources: Publicagenda.org, Whitehouse.gov

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