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CNN IN THE MONEY

Staff Discusses State Of American Education; Companies Feel Job Market Will Bounce Back 20 Percent Next Year

Aired November 27, 2004 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the news now, the U.S. Secret Service is refusing comment on an alleged assassination plot against President Bush. A senior Colombian official says Marxist rebels were behind the alleged plot, although no incidents took place. The president stopped briefly in Colombia earlier this week on his way home from the APEC summit in Chile.
A major victory for the opposition in Ukraine. Parliament passed a measure supporting the annulment of the presidential election. The vote is not legally binding, but the presidential results were questioned after reports of election fraud.

And thinking about getting an iPod or other high-tech gizmos as a gift this holiday? Coming up next hour, we'll run down this year's hottest electronic toys for everybody on your list.

I'm Andrea Koppel. We'll have more news for you at the bottom of the hour. IN THE MONEY begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: From New York City America's financial capital, this is IN THE MONEY.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, HOST: Welcome to IN THE MONEY. I'm Susan Lisovicz, sitting in today for Jack Cafferty. Today we're taking a special look at education. Coming up, sore subjects. A new study says a lot of high school kids are not getting the fundamentals they need to compete in college. See what they're missing and what can be done about it.

Also ahead -- science friction. Science and math are the 97- pound weaklings in the U.S. education system. Find out if that's making America weaker, too.

And Hamlet versus the half back. From drama club to varsity football, find out what admissions officers at America's top colleges are looking for. Joining me today, a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT correspondent Christine Romans and "Fortune" magazine editor at large, Andy Serwer. Jack's not here today, but he always says that I strike him as the kid you'd want to copy from in chem lab class and I was so opposite that. I was really just cruising along getting C grades until one teacher, Mr. Nolan, in humanities just brought the world alive for me. It was really a life changing experience and it made all of the difference I think in how I ended up.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Yep. Go ahead Christine. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was going to say, the teachers who are the ones everyone remembers. By the time I die I will remember every single teacher I ever had. How many people are going to remember what we do or what the average person does? It is the singular career that really changes the most lives, I think.

SERWER: It's funny, I'm one of those people who can't remember any of their teachers at all but maybe that because...

ROMANS: I bet they remember you.

SERWER: Maybe that's because I came from a family of educators -- well that's probably true too. So I remember my mother and father were both teachers and so they inspired me in that sense. This is one of these issues that's so important for the country but we're in a war in Iraq and the economy, but still, education is such a critical issue. Sometimes it takes a back burner, but it's something we always have to pay attention to.

LISOVICZ: That's right. It makes the difference -- it made the difference in our lives and certainly millions of others and that's why we want to devote the whole program to it. College is tough enough but a study out recently found that some kids are making it even harder on themselves. The numbers come from the people who give the ACT college entrance exam. They say that just 22 percent of the students who took the ACT this year were ready for college course work. One reason? Fewer kids are taking core curriculum classes in things like math, science and English. For more about that, we're joined by Cyndie Schmeiser, a senior vice president of research and development at ACT and she's in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Thanks for joining us.

CYNDIE SCHMEISER, ACT, INC: It's a pleasure to be here, thank you.

LISOVICZ: Some of the findings are so disturbing, 22 percent ready for college?

SCHMEISER: That's exactly right. Far too few of our high school graduates are ready for college and work, where the same skills are need to go into the workforce. When we looked at the class of 2004, the high school graduates, we found that only 22 percent of them were ready to go into college level courses in English, math and in science. This was true of males, females and all racial ethnic groups. Even when we look farther back into the pipeline and we look at the students who will be in the classes of 2006 and 2008, it looks like they're not going to fare any better either, unless we take action now and our research shows that there are some steps that can be taken to make a difference.

SERWER: Cyndie, before we ask you about those steps, let me ask you a little bit about your organization, ACT, a testing service, is that what you do primarily?

SCHMEISER: We certainly started in 1959 as a research and assessment organization focused primarily at the transition to help kids make the transition between high school and college, but in the last 45 years, our work has expanded greatly. We also are working in the area of workforce development. We have counseling programs and we offer not only assessment, but guidance programs to help students begin thinking, considering, and planning for college in the middle school years, where there's time to take the right courses and to prepare for both college and work.

ROMANS: Cyndie, I certainly remember growing up in Iowa, you know, starting as early as seventh grade, teachers talking about the ACT and when they were going to take the ACT and what was important to learn in terms of test taking skills for the ACT. A very big part of the public school system is getting ready for this, so I'm concerned that so few kids appear to be graduating from high school with the tools that they need. Has it always been this few? Is it getting worse?

SCHMEISER: Well, our research, we went back 10 years and our research suggests that it's not getting any worse, but it's not getting any better, too. What we found is that since the national commission on excellence and education put out a great report in 1983 where they -- called "A Nation at Risk." In that report they recommended that all students need to take a core preparatory curriculum in high school. Four years of English and three years of math, social studies and science. What we're finding out in our research and in the last 10 years, not enough students are taking the right number of courses. And now, with our current research, it looks like it's not only the right number of courses, but it's the right kinds of courses that kids need to take in order to be ready to go into college and to go into the workforce.

LISOVICZ: But something doesn't equate there, Cyndie. If you're not taking the right number of courses, how can you go on to college? Aren't there certain standards?

SCHMEISER: Absolutely. We do need students to take the right numbers but more importantly, it's the right kinds of courses. Our research showed that students who take one or more higher level mathematics courses beyond algebra I, algebra II and geometry, fair far better in being prepared to go into college and go into the workforce as well as if they take biology, chemistry and physics. They are far better prepared to go into college and not need to take remedial courses and that's what we want to happen.

SERWER: Cyndie, how does your company compete with a company that gives the SAT and have you acknowledged the way they have, that you can prepare for your tests?

SCHMEISER: Well, our tests really come from different philosophical perspectives. We were founded on the principle of achievement. So our test is based upon the high school curriculum and focuses on those knowledges and skills that students need to have in order to be ready to go into college level work. So we base our test in what we measure on what colleges tell us are important for kids to know and understand so they get into college ready to learn and they won't have to take remedial courses.

SERWER: That's different from the SAT, you're saying, then?

SCHMEISER: Yes, it is. They came from a slightly different perspective, not necessarily an achievement focus but we fundamentally base our test on national curriculum surveys of both college, what colleges want their entering students to have and know and what high school teachers also believe is important for students.

ROMANS: Cyndie, I go back to sort of the idea that somewhere along the way we're failing if only 22 percent are ready according to your study. Whose fault is it? Is it the students? Is it teachers? Is it the education system? Is it the fact that maybe we're not learning the right things or maybe we're not testing the right way?

SCHMEISER: Well, you know, like any educational issue, you can't really isolate a single factor, but what our research is telling us is that we need to take a very hard look at our core preparatory programs in high school to make sure that they're focused on the types of knowledges and skills that college want entering students to have. So we need to make sure that our high school courses are rigorous, that they're really focused at high expectations for students and teaching exactly what it is that kids need to know in order to be able to be ready to go into those college level courses and be ready to go into the workforce. So we need to reexamine our courses. We need to raise the rigor and we need to make sure the courses that are now in every high school in our country are teaching the right skills and the right skills are college level and workforce level skills.

LISOVICZ: Something that benefits us all, that is for sure. Cyndie Schmeiser, senior vice president research and development at ACT, thanks so much for joining us.

SCHMEISER: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

LISOVICZ: When we come back, math problems. We'll look at whether America's education in math and science is up to snuff.

Also ahead -- play ball or play the violin? Find out what really gets a college admissions officer's attention.

And that's one hot sheepskin. We'll look at which college majors pack a punch in the job market.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: America may be a leading player in the tech business, but a lot of the people who have made the boom happen didn't start out here. They're foreign students and immigrants and they brought their passion for math and science with them. But getting their American counterparts just as competitive means taking a hard look at U.S. education in science and math and that may take some work.

In fact, one education specialist recently checked out a national test of math skills and found that many questions were just too easy. That's Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. He's also a senior fellow there. Welcome to the program. TOM LOVELESS, THE BROOKINGS INST: Thank you.

ROMANS: Too easy in math and science. What's wrong with the U.S. education system in this area?

LOVELESS: Well in terms of math, we've been making progress. Test scores have been skyrocketing over the last several years, but what our study questioned, was actually the content of the math questions on the national assessment of educational progress. That's known as the nation's report card. We took a large number of those items and we evaluated just when are the skills (INAUDIBLE) in order for students to answer those questions directly and it turns out that, for instance, on the eighth grade test, the problem solving items and the algebra items on the eighth grade test, most of the skills are taught by the end of second or third grade, so four or five years below grade level.

SERWER: Tom, how much of this is a timeless problem though? We've always had a scenario where the best and the brightest from around the globe, I mean Albert Einstein, Werner von Braun (ph), maybe that's not a great example, scientists coming to this country from other countries. So is this really such a critical issue?

LOVELESS: Well, our higher education system has been renowned around the world and I think that's really what you're referring to. The problems have to do with our kindergarten through 12th grade system. What we've found for instance in international assessments where the United States, where students from the U.S. take a test as well as students from all over the world. We found that our fourth graders do pretty well. They score in the top third of nations roughly. Our eighth graders don't do as well. They score somewhere in the middle of the pack of nations taking a math test and then kids in high school, our 12th graders are at the bottom of nations around the world. So our K through 12 system simply doesn't have a record that we should be proud of when it comes to mathematics. However, our higher education system, we do import a lot students. Our math majors, many of our science majors come from abroad.

LISOVICZ: Right and that's a whole other level though, quite literally. Why is there that disconnect, Tom? Children love math. Boys and girls, we've certainly seen it with adolescent girls. They start focusing on other things when they get into their preteen adolescence, and they just, their grades plummet, but it seems obviously that boys are suffering, too. They're not interested. Why is that?

LOVELESS: Well there seems to be a falloff in the teen years, from early adolescents through the teen years. We don't see that in other nations. The best explanation probably is a cultural one. When we look at other nations and how teenagers deal with schools, schools presented to teens in high scoring nations of Europe and of Asia, really it's their job so that's their job to do. The United States, we pride ourselves on producing more well-rounded young people and so school is certainly the most important thing in our young people's lives, but it's not the singular most important thing and that's the difference between the U.S. and many countries abroad. ROMANS: And the paradox really is that we're behind kindergarten through eighth grade or kindergarten through 12th grade, but then the cream of the crop from the rest of the world comes here to be educated in math and science at the very upper echelons. You've got to wonder if we can continue that kind of pace. I mean when you look at the explosion of a middle class in China, India and elsewhere, could be the very high end education system, the U.S. college system, I don't know (INAUDIBLE) run for its money for some of this top talent in science and math among 20-year-olds and doctoral candidates?

LOVELESS: That's right. And if those nations begin to develop a prestigious universities and colleges of their own that will rival the U.S., then probably that inflow of students that we currently benefit from we'll see trickle down.

SERWER: Tom, I guess I could argue with you about this well- rounded notion. It seems to me if our students are well-rounded we're kind of doing OK here, but I want to ask you about something else. I've got two children who are in primary school right now, in fifth grade and first grade, and they're sort of learning some of this prerogative, the Turk system in math. There's controversy over that. They have to understand the multiplication tables instead of memorizing it, drives some parents crazy. What's your take on that?

LOVELESS: I've been a critic of the math reform movement as it's known or progressive mathematics as you referred to it. It has become widespread in the United States over the last decade. What we're finding is that arithmetic, just basic arithmetic skills like you mentioned simply aren't emphasized enough in many of those programs. There are good reform programs and there are bad reform programs, so we shouldn't lump them all together. The unfortunate thing and again, this came out of our study out of Brookings, is that our national assessment that tests the Federal government gives, it has very little arithmetic on it. And so if our kids are not learning these skills, we won't even know about it.

LISOVICZ: I'm curious Tom, we're talking about how the cream of the crop from overseas, kids who really are interested in science and math have traditionally come to the U.S., but there's a problem there, post 9/11. It's tougher to get visas to come into the U.S. So that's also creating fewer bright students majoring in science and math, majoring in those areas on campus and also doing this important research that raises the levels of those institutions.

LOVELESS: It is tougher to get in the U.S. however, students are still managing to get into our major universities, at least those who want to study math in technical fields. This is also a problem not just for colleges but if you read yesterday, Silicon Valley is having problems in terms of getting highly technical workers and so they're concerned about the visa problem as well. It extends beyond education into the workforce.

SERWER: All right, food for thought from Tom Loveless. He is the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. Thanks very much.

LOVELESS: Thank you for having me.

SERWER: Coming up after the break, smart money will look at how the education business could buff up your bank account as an investor.

Plus, to be or not to be. Oh, I love this. A member of the school drama club. See if those extracurriculars really count when it comes to getting into college.

And (INAUDIBLE) find out which college subjects pay you back for those tuition bills when your kid's looking for a job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SERWER: Welcome back to this special edition of IN THE MONEY. Education isn't just about chalk and black boards. It's about dollars and cents, too. There are a few companies who make education their business. Christine Romans has a look at two education stocks you might be interested in for the coming year.

ROMANS: Ah, the merger of education and capitalism, making money on education. Have you ever heard of the University of Phoenix? It's owned by a company called Apollo. Twenty percent of Apollo is owned by the founding family, the Sperling (ph) family. As Andy was pointing out, they've become really rich on this stock. Look at the chart. Over the past five years, it's had an incredible run. It's off a little bit this year, as you can see, because there's some investigations swirling in the education for-profit sector and that's hurt the sector, but it has been a pretty good winner over the past five years, very interesting looking stock there.

SERWER: And even going back further than five years, I mean that's been one of the best stocks in the entire United States of America over the past decades.

LISOVICZ: It's a huge university, right?

ROMANS: University of Phoenix, they got a whole bunch of other branches too and they're spreading out across the country really. There's another one you probably heard about, Devry. You've seen the ads on television late at night a lot too, Devry technical colleges. This is a lot smaller than Apollo. Apollo has a $13 billion market cap. Devry has a billion market cap and sales of $784 million. It's been a little more of a wild ride. DV is the ticker symbol there. But one of the theories could you hang on to, if these companies all have good numbers and sound numbers as I just pointed out, I want to say, in this industry, there have been investigations, but --

LISOVICZ: It's really hurt that stock.

ROMANS: Absolutely. But if you have this theory of retraining in this country, this idea that we're outsourcing American jobs but we're going to be retraining here for other kinds of things or we're becoming more of a service economy in general, then some of these technical schools, trade schools, two-year schools, four-year schools, community colleges are theoretically going to be seeing more students.

LISOVICZ: A necessity actually. We're living longer. We're certainly going to be working longer. One of the recent interviews we did on this program was how the minimum, the age of retirement will certainly be raised in the coming years with the problems of Social Security and at Devry, the average, nearly 50 percent of students are older than 25.

ROMANS: And there's also this immigrant influx. Immigrant families are not going to be able in the very first generation to send their kids to Harvard. Where are they going to send them? They're going to send them to the lower cost schools. You get a lot of talent, a lot of education, a lot of new blood coming in here and that's where people are going to go to school.

SERWER: It's been a real growth business. I mean there's ITT education, career education, Corinthian and they all went way up and now they've all come back down because of these scandals. It's kind of a new industry and I don't think America is quite comfortable yet with for-profit education as a business. I think on the primary level, it hasn't worked really at all. Secondary, we're still new. We're checking it out. It does look like it's working and obviously hundreds and thousands of people have attended these schools to their credit and it seems to be working. So you got to kind of watch as you go here.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

SERWER: As an investor, if you're a student, it looks like it could work out pretty well.

LISOVICZ: And certainly some of the fundamentals of it. Again, older students, older people being retrained.

SERWER: Demographics.

LISOVICZ: And also some of the curriculum too are very much geared to what is need today in the work place.

SERWER: Yeah, like maybe a news anchor.

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: No, talking about me.

All right. Coming up here, give a little, get a little. See if after school volunteering can help a kid get into a top college, while making the world a better place.

Also ahead, majors you can bank on. Find out which subjects pay big for college students hitting the job market.

And proof that surfing the web can make you smarter. Check out our fun site of the week, please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I'm Andrea Koppel in Washington. Now in the news, a victory for the opposition in Ukraine's controversial presidential runoff election. In a nonbinding vote, the country's parliament backed a measure to annul the election, which the opposition and international observers claim was rigged. The move could help pave the way for new elections.

A mess on the Delaware River near Philadelphia. The Coast Guard is helping to clean up a crude oil spill after 30,000 gallons leaked from a Cypriot tanker last night. Parts of the river remain closed. The spill has been contained and teams are assessing the extent of environmental damage.

The penalty phase in the Scott Peterson case is slated to begin Tuesday. Coming up next hour, we'll preview the sentencing options facing the jury, which found Peterson guilty of murder.

I'll have all the day's news at the top of the hour. Now back to IN THE MONEY at CNN.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR, IN THE MONEY: So your kid may be a straight "A" student at the top of his class with near perfect scores on his SATs, but that doesn't make him a shoe-in for the ivy league. Top-ranked schools want more than just top notch scores and grades. Here with a look at what it really takes to get into the most competitive colleges is Chuck Hughes, president of Road to College. Chuck is also the author of "What It Really Takes to Get into the Ivy League." Chuck, welcome to the program.

CHUCK HUGHES, ROAD TO COLLEGE: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Beyond grades, what does it take to get into one of the top schools? Because I have to imagine, there are so many kids out there with straight As who want to go to Harvard. Something else has to make them stand apart from the rest.

HUGHES: Absolutely, and I think the first and foremost things, students have to take a real count of is, how are they building a contextually strong and relevant admissions profile? And part of that starts with what are you doing outside the classroom in your activities?

LISOVICZ: Right, and so I guess that's the critical difference, right, Chuck? A lot of schools say they want sort of a well-rounded student. So they don't want somebody who is just shuttered away studying 99 percent of the time. They want somebody who can really contribute on campus, too?

HUGHES: Absolutely. And when you think about the three driving factors, you've got the academic side, which is taking a strong curriculum and getting strong test scores and grades like you mentioned but then there's the side to the activities, how will you make a difference on a college campus? Will you bring something to the town such as music? Will you be able to be an athlete that can play on one of the varsity sports programs? Are you a terrific thespian? So really adding value and getting involved and making a difference on campus life can be essential to building a strong admissions case.

The other piece too to think about is personal qualities. How are your teachers going to position you and talk about your strengths and talents when college admissions officers are reading through thousands of applications of really competent and highly qualified candidates? So you can take those letters, look at the opportunities to interview in colleges and take advantage of strong essays to give a sense of you who are as a person, as a college roommate and how you'll be able to make a difference on a college campus.

SERWER: All right. Chuck, two questions. First one's a quickie, where did you go to school?

HUGHES: I went to Harvard as an undergrad.

SERWER: All right. I knew it.

HUGHES: Don't hold that against me.

SERWER: No, I'm not going to. There are actually some very talented people. OK, I want to ask you about advanced placement classes, very controversial topic now. There was just an article in the "Wall Street Journal" recently about how schools are getting rid of these AP courses. What's your take on this?

HUGHES: I think you have to differentiate the AP courses on two fronts. First a lot of schools positioned APs as advanced standing and/or transfer credit to supplement your college education. More and more universities are moving away from that, but in the admissions office, understanding the value of the international baccalaureate program or advanced placement courses helps to differentiate you and one of your previous guests talked about taking a strong program. Well, across the country, APs and international baccalaureate courses are still among the best predictors of your college academic performance and therefore from an admissions perspective, is a great way to help us differentiate the pretenders from the real academicians in our pool.

ROMANS: A couple of things you point out, that eighth grade is when students seem to start to think, if they want to go to an ivy league school, they got to start planning and plotting by the eighth grade. I also want to ask you, what if you're the parent of a kid who can't throw a ball, doesn't have a musical ear and simply is really, really smart but just likes to keep his nose in the books. Is that going to keep him out of Harvard?

HUGHES: Absolutely not. I think the thing to think about when you talk about middle school, there's planning and that parents should take an investment in their child's education. We look at consumable goods out there in the marketplace and we'll go out and buy a car and we'll go out and buy a house, but we don't take the time to invest in our child's future and I think it starts with middle school and helping a child find their academic passions, their activities that they really love to participate in and help them spurn them into a high school experience where they aren't going to flounder for a few years finding out about themselves and instead can really hit high school running and --

ROMANS: But without being too overbearing. You don't want to take a eight grade, a 13-year-old and start prepping them for Harvard. That's a lot of pressure on a kid too. You want to have a normal kind of high school experience because Harvard and all of these other big schools obviously don't want some tightly wound kid coming in who has been practicing for six years how to get in.

HUGHES: Absolutely and I think parents and school systems and students themselves have to understand that there's a very limited number of admission spaces for the ivy league and what we might consider the 20, 25 most competitive colleges in the country and you have a pool of 200,000 to 300,000 students that academically are more than qualified for probably about 30, to 40,000 beds in these top 25 or 30 schools in the country. So your goal is to develop your talents. If you want to become a financial planner, you have to take the steps to get there. If you want to become a lawyer, you have to do the steps to prepare along the way. All I'm suggesting is that students and parents ought to take a look at doing the right things in high school to give themselves the most chances and you bring up another great point about how do you find the right college fit because we focus too much on the brand and Harvard isn't for anybody, nor is Penn nor is the University of California at Berkeley.

LISOVICZ: Maybe that's why I'm a graduate of the public school system Chuck and I'm proud to say, like Christine, that I was paid off the day that I graduated college, so I didn't have that burden to bear either. But one of the things that you suggest, Chuck, is somebody who not only graduated from Harvard, but then was part of the admissions process is that you can work the system. So while you're in high school and you're not the quarterback and you don't get a perfect 4.0, is that you can work the system maybe with the teachers who know the personal characteristics that make you exceptional and have them write glowing letters, for instance.

HUGHES: In the end, it may or may not make a difference when you look at admissions rates that are under 20 percent, but the key is, and I think you ought to understand, is that high school students don't think about their high school experience the way we think about our life and our careers. We manage up to our bosses. We develop relationships with our business networks and our partners. We extend ourselves with relationships. High school students are just finding out about the process of building relationships and developing interview skills and communication skills and really, going aggressively after the things that they want in their life. For students who can understand that type of experience can be invaluable as they make their way through high school.

SERWER: Chuck, let me ask you one last quick question. Do you think this is getting close to getting out of hand, all this sort of resume building when you're 14, 15, 16 years old, forming clubs in high school, volunteering in Guatemala just to get into college?

HUGHES: I absolutely do. You have to have -- when we, our company spend time with families, what we really talk about is finding out what they love to do and helping them build interesting experience along the way that will have a lifetime worth of value. For students doing that it solely to get into the best name brand school possible, quite often that's a recipe for failure. You have to do it with perspective and understanding. Are you somebody that really has an interest in getting involved with service organizations or do you really want to play a musical instrument at a level that is at a high enough level to be considered special or do you just want to be part of the band and be a contributor? It's OK to be a cog in the wheel and not every college in the world is looking for somebody that's been a leader cross the board. We are looking for pieces to the puzzle as well.

SERWER: All right. Sage advice from a Harvard man. Chuck Hughes, president of Road to College, author of "What It Takes to Get into the Ivy League" and he knows it. Thank you.

HUGHES: Thanks for having me.

SERWER: There's more to come here on IN THE MONEY. Up next, majors with muscle. We'll look at which subjects can help you pay off a student loan fastest.

And feast or famine. Allen Wastler is going to tell us why next year's college grads will face a different kind of job market than we've seen in awhile.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SERWER: Are you scrimped and saved for years just so your little darling can attend state "U" and someday get out from under your roof. Now she's officially a philosophy major and your plan is not looking so promising. But before you tell her to do some deep thinking about real living, let's find which majors land the best jobs. For that, we're joined now by Patrick Combs, author of the book, "Major in Success." Welcome Patrick and I guess let's get right to it. What majors work out? What should people be looking for, young people today?

PATRICK COMBS, AUTHOR, MAJOR IN SUCCESS: It actually turns out that it's not so much the major that they should be looking at, but young people ought to be figuring a whole new strategy for finding a job.

ROMANS: What do you mean a strategy for finding a job? You're just trying to get through school and drink a minimum amount of beer as Andy was just pointing out and get a degree and hopefully not owe your parents 100 grand, so what kind of strategy?

COMBS: To search in the hidden job market rather than sit in the basement and try and find a job online which is what most students, how they approach the job search.

LISOVICZ: All right. So Patrick, what you're saying is that philosophy and art history may be fun. You may enjoy some of the literature that you read, but they're really not great for landing the jobs. You like accounting, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, business administration, economic science, all of the stuff that I really did poorly at.

COMBS: I'm well aware of the fact that those are the hot jobs this year, but what I'm really saying is that I coached many students who were trying to find jobs, that most of their job search is really misguided in that they're looking where 15 percent of all jobs exist, rather than the big pile of 85 percent of jobs in the hidden job market. So it turns out it's not so much about what you major in, but it's about how you job search.

SERWER: What's your major is of course, a great line at the college bar, but besides that, don't you have to get into some of this, what color is your parachute stuff? I mean it took me years to figure out the reason I ended up doing some of this journalism stuff is that I really like talking to people and communicating. I never thought that way in college when I was looking for a job. I just sort of fell into it. What kind of advice can you give to people to sort of take a step back and look at what they're good at and what they like to do?

COMBS: Oh, I really appreciate that question. Well, one, what color is your parachute is a great book. "Major in Success" will also guide you through that, but the best advice is to take a look at what you'd like to be talented at because oftentimes students are over focused on what job do I want, but they don't have a picture of what jobs are even out there. But when they ask themselves the question, hey, what would I love to be really good at, then answers start showing up more often, like I might really like to be good as humorous copyrighting, for instance.

ROMANS: You say that grads aren't really aggressive enough, that you really have to prod college graduates along to really get them to follow up and to really go after it.

COMBS: Yeah, honestly, what I encounter, 95 percent of the time, when someone calls me for help, because they can't find a job, it's not because of what they majored in. It's because they're searching online and their whole job search is based on online postings or posting their resume or looking through advertisements and that is the most difficult way in the world to get a job.

LISOVICZ: You know, Patrick, I would have to say that some of my friends still haven't figured out what they want to do in life. I think one of your easiest suggestions is to start while you're on campus with these informational seminars that come where you could figure out, hey, I like this. I could see a future here. You (INAUDIBLE) by just simply dropping in, talking to a few people, finding out about different courses.

COMBS: Yeah, you know, I call it the out and about strategy, because most people, they're just in their room, but when you get out and about, then suddenly you start to figure out what you'd love to do with your life which is important to find your passion, but also, you start to figure out what jobs are out there, and the best way, the best strategy I've ever heard for somebody to figure out what they'd love to do and getting a job, is they just started taking people to lunch, when they were in college, people that they would meet in the real world. And then one lunch would lead to another and another.

LISOVICZ: Who is picking up the tab?

SERWER: Patrick, you knew this was going to come, but we got to ask you, what was your major? You didn't major in, like job science or authoring, right? So what about you?

COMBS: I defaulted to a speech and communications major, because I didn't like business. I started off as business thinking advertising might be it for me. I got out. I did an informational interview in advertising and went, no, this is not for me.

LISOVICZ: Patrick Combs, author, "Major in Success." It certainly sounds like a good idea to major in success. Thanks for joining us.

COMBS: Thanks so much for having me on.

LISOVICZ: Coming up, thinking big. Start with the little stuff. We'll show you a website that will help you brush up on your trivia, the really little stuff. And whether it's trivial or earth shaking, writing it, I'll (ph) ask what's on your mind. The address is inthemoney@cnn.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LISOVICZ: It looks like there's a better employment future ahead for this year's college seniors. Joining us now with that is web master Allen Wastler, who also has a challenging fun site of the week for the panel.

ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: Oh, yes, but before we get to that, first of all, good news for everyone. According to Michigan State University, they did a survey of 600 companies. They predict that hiring will go up on average 20 percent next year.

LISOVICZ: That's huge.

SERWER: That's coming from a low base.

WASTLER: That's for college graduates, people with associate degrees, college degrees, PhDs, master degrees.

SERWER: The more degrees you have, the less you're going to get paid. Put that out there, because that's always true. That's always true.

WASTLER: The bad news is, for PhDs, for PhDs, they figure the market's actually going to retreat 15 percent.

LISOVICZ: They never pay off, do they?

WASTLER: Higher and deeper, it gets you nowhere, but generally it looks like things -- of this survey, OK, the number of companies saying it's a very good to excellent job market, went from 5 percent last year to 11 percent this year. You say well that's still a teeny, tiny part. But get this, the ones that said oh, it's poor. It's terrible out there, yuck, yuck, that went from about 64 percent down to only 38 percent. So you're seeing a general optimism.

LISOVICZ: What's changed?

SERWER: How many people (INAUDIBLE) number that flashed up on the screen.

LISOVICZ: Call now.

SERWER: Yes, volunteers needed. Don't think you're going to get paid.

ROMANS: I think they want to you resubmit your resume.

SERWER: I'm sure they do, wouldn't surprise me at all.

WASTLER: Generally, it's a sign the economy's getting better. We're seeing profits come back into the corporate atmosphere, so as a consequence, they're increasing their hiring plans. Fifty percent of those companies surveyed said they expect to increase their hiring levels from the previous year. So things are looking pretty bright.

LISOVICZ: Any areas where Andy should resubmit his resume?

WASTLER: As mentioned with the previous guest, accounting is big, business is big, marketing's big.

SERWER: I want to become an accountant. I got to learn how to do it first.

LISOVICZ: Let's have the fun site because you are going to tease us.

WASTLER: The fun site now, I heard you guys talking about science and math kind of deteriorating. So I went to one of my favorite places, trivia palace and I pulled the quizzes up on science and math. Let's start with astronomy.

SERWER: Oh, my favorite!

WASTLER: Bring up the question. What is the second largest planetary system in our solar system?

SERWER: I didn't know there was one.

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE) Leo. Aquarius.

WASTLER: The planet with the little moons, OK.

SERWER: That's plutron (ph).

WASTLER: The answer is Saturn.

LISOVICZ: It's not a car. It's actually a Plymouth.

SERWER: I thought it was the one that began with a "U" but never mind. WASTLER: Let's move on to math. Ready? OK, here's your math question. What is the closest decimal value to 5/9?

ROMANS: I'm going to say -- do, do, do, do, do, do, do I'm going to say C.

SERWER: I'm going to try B.

LISOVICZ: I'm going to say C too and my father is going to be so mortified.

SERWER: B.

WASTLER: Andy, (INAUDIBLE)

SERWER: I got it. I said B. Run the tape back. I did say B. I could become an accountant.

WASTLER: Let's finish up with some basic science now.

ROMANS: We're 0 for 2.

WASTLER: Basic science, here you go. "AL" is the chemical abbreviation for --?

LISOVICZ: D.

SERWER: Chemicals I'm good at.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: AL is the ticker symbol.

WASTLER: What are you guys going with here?

ROMANS: I think aluminum is too obvious.

LISOVICZ: I'm going to say the obvious. My dad's a physicist. He's going to kill me.

SERWER: Argon.

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: That's very good. It makes sense actually to go for the obvious one. That's a very good strategy.

WASTLER: ...about suffering in math and science knowledge. I think we've demonstrated that.

SERWER: Wait a minute. We got all of them right, didn't we? It took three of us. Collectively we got 100, Allen.

LISOVICZ: Don't hold this against us, viewers. Thank you Allen.

Coming up next on IN THE MONEY, it's time to hear from you as we read some of your e-mails from the past week. And you can send us an e-mail right now to, I know we're embarrassing ourselves with our lack of math and science and planetary knowledge. We're at inthemoney@cnn.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LISOVICZ: Now it's time to read your answers to our question about what you think the biggest problem is with American education. Richard wrote, as a teacher, I think the biggest problem is we don't prepare students for life in the real world. Mostly what we do is have them memorize facts and not learn to work in a team to solve real problems. Standardized tests are also acting as more of a problem than an aid.

Shannon wrote, the biggest problem is the lack of parental involvement but the schools need to give the parents better tools to help out. Schools should sponsor workshops that show parents exactly how to help their kids at home.

And Jake wrote, I'm a student at a public high school and the biggest problem here is our standards are too low. When you can pass tests with a grade of 60 and graduate with a B minus average, we won't survive on the outside.

And if you want to find next week's e-mail question, let us know your opinion, check out our show page. You can find that at money.com/inthemoney. That's also where you'll find the address for our fun sites of the week and challenge your knowledge on math and science. Thanks for joining us for this edition of IN THE MONEY. Thanks to LOU DOBBS TONIGHT correspondent Christine Romans, "Fortune" magazine editor at large Andy Serwer and money.com managing editor Allen Wastler. Join us next week on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. or catch Andy and Jack all week on AMERICAN MORNING starting at 7:00 a.m. Eastern.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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