Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 1pm

Ask the Experts


Haunted House

Like many others, I am living off-campus. I got stuck with a bad situation. What can I do?

This problem is a common one, which reappears each school year. Even though many have written about this, it needs to be repeated for each incoming class. Colleges vary widely in the number of students choosing to live in off-campus housing. For some, it is well over 50% of students. Here are some housing horror stories. Our advice is to learn from these and ask more questions before you rent.

Off campus accommodation represents the biggest, non-academic expense for students and parents, so it is not to be approached lightly. The first consideration is your roommates, who are they? Living with people you do not know can be a potential minefield. Bad behavior, substance or alcohol abuse, uncleanliness, and noise and partying, can all disrupt your study schedule.

Roommates should have expectations of each other and respect for differing agendas and timetables. Although not legally binding, all occupants should write and agree on a list of acceptable house behavior, before moving in. House rules go a long way to keeping the peace, says a rental properties expert.

If the situation arises that once person has to leave, this will cause problems, if they have nowhere to go. Keeping up with other classmates and their accommodation arrangements will allow some flexibility. People clash and conflicts will occur.

Landlords can be a nightmare. Not taking responsibility for the property, failing to honor the rental agreement, and increasing the rent are all commonplace. The easiest way to learn about your future landlord is to talk to last year’s student occupants.

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Healthcare Heist

I have to choose my courses now, because I want to go into healthcare. If they repeal ObamaCare, does the field still have a rosy future?

Answering this question today, requires not a forecast but a crystal ball. Every single person in our country is going to be directly impacted by the government’s decisions. Let us consider healthcare in the USA as a source of employment. Regardless of the government, the best way to have a future in healthcare is technical training. Here is why.

Over eight years ago, a fledgling Obama administration kicked off a health-reform program, ObamaCare. This drastically changed US employment over the coming decade. Our economy was in recession and needed job creation. The result was an unsustainable employment bubble in the healthcare sector.

One sector stood apart, as the rest of the economy shed 9 million jobs between 2008 and 2010. Healthcare collectively gained more than 550,000 jobs, with a track record of adding jobs every single month during those dark days.

With new legislation and millions of new health insurance policies issued, employment in the health sector jumped almost 9% between 2012 and 2013. According to reports, 15.5 million people now work in healthcare. However, the industry driven by government spending and an aging population. The sector is seen as recession-proof, observed CEO Mark Prip, Medicare Supplement Insurance provider.

Is this boost to employment a gift? The healthcare boom could be a bubble, which could implode with serious consequences. Since women occupy a high percentage of healthcare jobs, they are more vulnerable.

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School Spirit

I am building a new website, that I think is a great idea. What are some creative techniques for marketing to college students?

This is an intriguing question, since we all know about wildly successful college start-ups such as Facebook, Reddit and WordPress. We would prefer to list innovative new ideas just waiting to be implemented. A more helpful approach would be to overview past successes and tell you why they worked, so that’s what we’ll do here.

Marketing to students has a number of inherent hurdles. Your customer base is skeptical and transient. However, students are also tech-savvy, connected, and flush with more discretionary purchasing power, than in high school.

One common marketing mistake is trying to be too ‘cool’. College students are critical thinkers and often cynical, especially towards advertising. Boston-based CampusLIVE is an online portal for academic and social interests, aimed at students. They understand the fickle nature of students, accelerating the rise and decline of many social media sites.

Word-of-mouth is a great tool in the college community; it can also work against you, causing your market to collapse. Focus on product development for a long time before marketing it, advises entrepreneur Boris Revsin. To become mainstream, the students have to sell the product themselves, spreading the word on campuses.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is a thousand pictures. Use video. Cable TV is not free or mobile, so students opt for YouTube and Netflix. Flippze, a local campus marketplace for students, has been releasing how-to videos to help introduce and market their products. These informative, short films cover subjects of interest to students: decorating a dorm, cramming for a test, etc. The product is seamlessly promoted within the video. Others created an online fashion show, encouraging students to buy costumes for parties and holidays.

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Ladies Choice

Women’s liberation was before my time. Can I expect now equal treatment in any career I choose?

We selected your question because over half our readers need to learn the answer. However, the focus of the question must be broadened: 1) will you receive equality in every career you choose, and 2) do women choose to go into all careers? Simply, no. Let us explore the problem.

Equality means equal pay, for equal work. The gender gap for average U.S. earnings for women is 80% of earnings for men. In corporate America, you will have to search to find glaring cases of women working next to men, but being paid less, observes insider consulting firm. Federal legislation, lawsuits and employee activism have changed this during past decades. So, what explains the 20% earnings shortfall?

Our hopeful college student is looking forward to her career. What determines whether she will stumble into the gender gap or succeed? The first hurdle is choosing your college major.

The most popular college major is business, with an almost equal number of women and men. After that, the graphs and career paths diverge. Learn the abbreviation STEM, for Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. Or try, Shortfall Total Earnings of Men. The third and fourth most popular major for men includes engineering and computers. We cannot hire more women, if they do not submit resumes to us, concedes high-tech, press parts manufacturer. For women, these majors are not even on the list of top ten choices, Women still prefer education, not nearly as much as a generation ago, and health-related professions.

Are these choices from early childhood socialization? Girls and boys learn different expectations for their futures. There is also the status quo. Enter the classroom for STEM courses, and the majority of seats are filled with men. This has not stopped women from filling almost half the places in medical schools, proudly reflects Ms. Agarwal, a practicing dentist.

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Buyer’s Remorse

Don’t tell me to buckle down, I realize I am an average student here. I could save myself and my parents a fortune, by dropping out. Is it better to be stay here or leave and start working now?

This question, or decision, confronts many students, with different motivation. I cannot advise you to spend money on tuition, that you may not have. You do not need a cheerleader urging college graduation. Studies show you will have plenty of company. Only 56% of students starting college will graduate. The graduation rate in Soviet Slovakia is higher, at 63%.

Let us consider the reasons why you may want to leave. Can an average or even a good student expect to graduate into a high-paying job? Once in school, you become aware of starting salaries and the number of students actually accepting their dream job. A recent study revealed that only 67% of students received jobs in their chosen field. After a large investment of effort, 4 years and thousands-of-dollars, are you likely to achieve your employment goal? Your first disappointment, college is not the real world.

You dodge a bullet, called student load debt. It is now over $1.4 trillion in the U.S, or over $37K per graduate. That will cost you about $350 monthly, to repay it. You already heard about the grads living at home, because it is too expensive on their own.

If you are leaning towards a non-traditional major, will you learn valuable job skills? Around half of women and a third of men choose majors that do not teach marketable skills for high-paying job sectors. Regardless of major, research revealed over 50% of graduates received no additional training at their jobs. These new recruits found they did not have job skills. Another lesson, you did not learn what you needed in school.

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Facebook Flabbergast

I am sure my parents got grief as teens for watching too much TV. I get bothered for too much Facebook. Would you please explain it to them?

More than a question, your complaint reflects a generational shift. We have come a long way since your teenage parents watched some inane sitcom. However, they too struggled to explain its merits to your grandparents.

Today, social media has largely taken over from television as a source of entertainment for young people. Its virtues go much further, as it is a powerful tool to connect people and promote e-commerce.

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has become the most popular place on the internet, with almost 2 billion users. The majority of users are your generation. Statistics show 88% of people aged 18-29 are active on Facebook. Almost 36% of U.S. seniors are regular internet users. They are all potential FB members, if you can convert them to social media. Why is there resistance to adopt the new media?

There has been a shift in communication patterns. Grandparents wrote letters, parents talked on the phone, or in person, and the younger generation discovered social media. FB can addictively feed your curiosity, much more than a simple conversation. It creates instant popularity and glorifies personality worship, where users seek more contact, says celebrity-watching vacations marketer.

There are more reservations from parents to use it. Students today are more open and trusting when it comes to sharing information online. The concept of ‘friends’ has taken on a much lighter meaning.

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Reefer Madness

With marijuana legalized in so many states, nobody pays attention to its use anymore. Are college students better or worse off now?

When we accept a question for the column, we try to answer it. You appreciate there is no ready answer for you, just a lot of research. It is considered an early stage in the American experiment with decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, concede marijuana lawyers. There are definitely people being hurt by the government’s change of strategy in the war on drugs. Let us see who they are.

A University of Michigan study reported students now smoke more marijuana than cigarettes. Access to the drug is restricted to those 21-and-older. Clearly that does not work for pot, cigarettes or alcohol, says cannabusiness entrepreneurs. In certain areas, usage has increased more on college campuses, than in the older segments of the population, who are legal age to buy pot.

College students have developed an increasingly liberal attitude towards casual drug use. Studies also show that drug use also rose in junior-high kids. Research, and common sense, says this directly followed its legalization.

Concomitant with legalization is an increase in potency. The average THC content in marijuana, the chemical that makes you high, has risen from 1%, in your parent’s generation, to 13% today. We already discussed, access, attitude and potency. Too many variables make conclusions difficult and there is more.

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Binary Blitzkreig

My online accounts and laptop have all been targeted by hackers. It has affected the way I use them. How do I protect myself?

This is a universal question, moreover threat, that people face all over the world. We have a list of fixes for you, but our first response may surprise you.

The chief flaw in online security is you, the user. We have displaced confidence in the technology and its messages. Advertising used to be in-your-face promotion. Now, the ads are targeted at you, by tracking your online activity. There is a comfort level established. We learned from Internet lawyers that hackers and spammers can hitch a ride on this online activity. That is why it is so important for you to be careful.

So here is the list. We concentrated on preventing theft, rather than spying on your data. The government has to pass laws for the latter.

Password protection. Most people know to use a variation of letters, numbers and symbols. The lesson is not to use the same password on different accounts, multiplying your vulnerability, warns Digitech, web designers.

Security question. These questions can often be answered by researching you online. Public data and your social media reveal many of those so-called security questions.

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Hobson’s Choice

My parents said yes. Should I bring a car to school?

Since you are lucky enough to have this choice, we wanted to help you consider the pros and cons. These are intertwined with the university you attend. Visit Purdue University to witness 99% of students have a car.

Parental permission to have a car usually comes with a tacit understanding of the rules. In high school, we all forgot to fill the tank before returning home, and stayed out driving past curfew. At college, there are more rules, including never lend your car to friends. The major concern is drinking and driving. Stats show over 3 million students have driven drunk.

Many colleges do not permit freshmen or students to have cars. Allowing a car, does not mean the university offers a car-friendly campus. The leading complaint is parking. It can be a shorter walk to class from the dorm, than the spot you parked.
You and your parents enjoyed the movie My Cousin Vinny. For many families, permission to have a car does not include driving it across country, says Direct Connect auto shippers. We checked out moving your car by rail. Peace of mind from New York to Miami was around $1,000.

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Scholarship Scavenger Hunt

I am looking to get more financial help for college. After the government and my school, is there anywhere else?

The audience for your question includes 2 out of 3 college students, who receive some sort of financial aid. Your search is divided into 2 categories. There is money you have to repay, and scholarships and grants you do not. You are not thinking about it now, but the government loans are going to be a large burden to repay.

More than half of student aid, over $120 billion, does not have to be repaid. This comes from the government and the college financial aid office. Your search for more money now begins.

Nearly $16 billion comes from private sources, including: colleges, military, individuals, communities, religious groups, non-profits, historical societies and businesses, cites corporate scholarship donor Mattress Clarity.

You probably exhausted the online scholarship search engines. It is not cliché, but there is no place like home.

You and your parents both need to be involved. The first resource is back in the high-school guidance office. It can have notices of scholarships exclusively for local students.

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Let’s Play Monopoly

When Trump was elected, I decided I wanted to go into real estate. Do you have any career advice for me?

We selected this question, but not to give personal career advice. Our column is informational. Everyone reading this will be going into real estate... when they buy their first home.

Millennials were not of age when the housing crisis hit, so they conveniently ignore it. Statistically, they will buy a home at around 32 and spend over $140,000. There are professionals for legal, medical and financial advice. When planning to become a homeowner, you make your own personal choices, explains residential experts, 1031 Gateway, a 1031 exchange property group.

You anticipate after college that your only problem is getting a job. The major choice of renting or buying a home quickly arises. It is intertwined with your career, family and lifecycle.

Real estate will subtly control your life. Early on, you save whatever you can after paying college debt, for a home down payment. One day, you are ready to buy your share of the American Dream. Should you buy a home for your current lifestyle, or anticipate a family? We already stressed above, you make your own choices.

Your first home, a starter home, is a major commitment of time and financial resources. The average family stays put in their first home for 11 years. As your family grows and career advances, you may look to trade up to a better neighborhood and finer home. If you study a chart of U.S. average home prices, you see a stark change in the yearly appreciation, from previous decades. The belief that real estate prices always rise, no longer holds. Plus, in some areas it is flat or has fallen. The math is you cannot sell your current home, until it has appreciated. That gain enables you to make a larger down payment on a more expensive home.

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The Outlook
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