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Higher Ed in the News

Harvard prof recommends courses for the 'game of life'

September 5, 2010

N. Gregory Mankiw, professor of economics at Harvard, is sending the first of his own children off to college. Which raised these questions: What should they be learning? And what kind of foundation is needed to understand and be prepared for the modern economy?

Professor Mankiw's key advice to college students includes:

  • Learn some economics - An introductory economics class helps students understand the whirlwind of forces swirling around them. It develops rigorous analytic skills that are useful in a wide range of jobs. And it makes students better citizens, ready to evaluate the claims of competing politicians.
  • Learn some statistics - One thing the modern computer age has given everyone is data. Lots and lots of data. All college students are well advised to take one or more courses in statistics, at least until high schools update what they teach.
  • Learn some finance - Americans are increasingly in charge of their own financial future. If college grads are going to manage their earnings intelligently, they need to study the fundamentals of financial decision making.
  • Learn some psychology - A bit of psychology reveals flaws in human rationality, including your own.
  • Ignore advice as you see fit - The one certain thing about the future is that it is far from certain. I don’t know what emerging industries will be attracting college graduates four years from now, and neither does anyone else.

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