He's studying broadcast journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead, this week's stop on the News Cut on Campus "listening tour." He studied at a music college in St. Paul with a plan to work in the music recording business. "I thought I had a plan, but then the plan got botched. I wanted to work in a recording studio in the music business and I did it for awhile and it lost all its 'glitz and glam.'"
"You think you're going to work with these great people in a great studio and you're going to make money, and all of a sudden you find yourself broke and looking for work, without health benefits, and you have to do your own taxes. I thought I could tough it out," he told me.
So he and his wife, who's studying international business, escaped to the Fargo Moorhead area. "Economically speaking, this was the place to live. You get to a point in life where you know you can live somewhere else for cheaper and get the same out of it, so why not? Maybe it doesn't make much sense to pay $800 a month when I can pay $500 a month," he said.
The region "feels like it hasn't been hit as bad," according to Matson. The cost of living is low, some companies are hiring, and the large number of colleges and universities has insulated many people from the cyclical economy. In Moorhead in particular, education is a business and there's plenty of concern that state cuts to higher education are going to hurt it.
"I was a fan of Public Radio and maybe I could go into journalism and learn how to write well and tell stories. So I'll have a technical background and a writing background and may be someone will want me to work for them," he said of his new career goal. But part of his passion remains in his "inner audio geek."
"I'm going to be a guy who can do a little bit of a lot of things," he said, reciting the formula a lot experts say is the right one for the new economy. "If someone wants me to work in radio, I can do that. If they want me to work in a studio, I can do that. If they want me to go on the road, I can do that."
What he's not sure how to do is pay off the accumulating student loan debt. By the time he graduates next year, it'll be $60,000-$70,000.
He wonders if it's been worth it.
His mother says "just don't think about it."
"I say, 'Easy for you to say. You're not the one who'll have to cut $700 a month out of the paycheck for 30 years.' And if you don't have a job, you still have to pay these loans. So it starts to eat at you," he said.