Barring a completely collapsing economy, Joey Larson, a native of Alden, Minnesota, may have the right idea for a career in a bad economy. He's in the law enforcement program at Minnesota West Community & Technical College in Worthington. There's no shortage of bad guys these days.
He may end up as a police officer when he graduates later this year, but he's got his eye on another job: "loss prevention leader" at the ShopKo in Worthington. He'll catch shoplifters. Like many of the students I've met on the News Cut on Campus tour, he has a well-thought-out plan. "It's helping me build a resume, build experience, and deal with people," he said of his potential job and his job-hunting strategy. "When you're a cop, a lot of times people are mad at either you or someone else. When you're working at loss prevention, the people you catch at shoplifting, they're going to be mad at you, and they're not going to like you. So it teaches you to deal with the people at that time."
Larson has used student loans to pay for 100% of his education. "My parents made just enough money that I didn't qualify for any financial aid, but they didn't make enough so they could help me with tuition at all," he said. He couldn't say how far he's in student-loan debt, another similarity with other students I've met in the last month. He guesses it's close to $30,000. "I try not to think about it," he says.
Alden is 100 miles from Worthington. Larson doesn't drive there much anymore because of the price of gasoline. "It's cheaper, but I'm being a lot more conservative with my money now."
He's confident things will get better. "I feel pretty comfortable. I think there are ways to get help and you don't need to be by yourself," he says.
He works at ShopKo now as a loss prevention investigator and says the economy "has a huge role in how much people shoplift." From what he's seen so far, people are stealing more frequently. "This year, the first month started out at about $3,000-$4,000 in known shoplifting," he figures. That's about four times the amount of a year ago.
"They don't really need it. When we stop them we search their purse, their wallet. It seems like they almost have more than enough money to pay for what they stole. It's not from need, it's from greediness, almost," he says.