Last updateWed, 14 Apr 2021 11am

Ask the Experts



Dyslexic Dynamics

I have dyslexia and still pursue my college degree. Do you think my potential employer is likely to be understanding?

This question is important to an estimated 5-10 percent of the U.S. population with dyslexia, with some estimates double that figure. There is no simple test, but a general diagnosis based on a series of criteria. This is why it has taken so long for this problem to receive proper recognition. You may be surprised that someone used the phrase the ‘upside of dyslexia’. What are they talking about?

Dyslexia is believed to be linked to how the brain is wired, manifesting itself as difficulty reading, writing, spelling and learning foreign languages. With these weaknesses though come a number of strengths, such as higher cognitive and linguistic functioning, conceptual abilities, reasoning, and problem solving.

The list of well-known people with it is extensive, many of whom are successful investors and entrepreneurs: Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, John Chambers, Craig McCaw and Paul Orfalea. Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein were believed to have had dyslexia.

However, for others dyslexia prevents them from working, as it affects the brain’s processing of language. It is often associated with people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

There have long been links with dyslexia and running businesses, as if the disorder somehow lends itself to enhanced entrepreneurship. Dyslexics can often have far superior abilities in some areas, more than their non-afflicted counterparts.

Previous studies have revealed that over a third of American entrepreneurs were dyslexic, representing a large proportional difference to the estimated ten percent of the U.S. population that deals with the disorder. The development of ‘soft skills’ is often accelerated at school, where dyslexics face difficulties navigating their way through traditional subjects. These essential business traits include: delegation, oral communication, perseverance and problem-solving skills. The ability to attack and solve problems is ideally suited to starting a new venture or business. Experiencing difficulties at school and college has induced the development of compensatory skills and higher levels of motivation later in life for many with the disorder.

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Rental Reek

Many students smoke pot at college. However, I find myself living with one. What can I do if my roommate is a problem?

This is more than a question, it is a legal, safety and moral dilemma. It may be harder to get rid of your roommate than get divorced in many states. Your roommate is engaged in an illegal activity (possessing or even dealing), interfering with your enjoyment of the apartment, and refuses to stop. Let us consider your possible criminal liability and what you can do about it.

It is no surprise that marijuana use and college life are often intertwined, however there are limits and boundaries especially when sharing a room. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which surveyed 25,400 college students between 18 and 22, one in five admitted to using illicit substances. The actual number could be closer to 40 percent for marijuana use if research is to be believed. If these figures are accurate, it is highly likely that most students will live with or be around somebody that is using drugs or selling them.

Regardless of your involvement, the implications for drug use in your living space can be severe. Even without police involvement, drug-fueled activity or dealing are often causes of wrongful death. This leaves you with a bit of a conundrum, especially if you get on with your roommate. Ideally, you would like them to change their habits, but you do not want to get involved, or worse be implicated, either. Moving out or finding other living arrangements are not always practical.

You could be in trouble if someone else in your room or dorm is selling illicit substances. Anyone doing so puts all users of that shared space at risk. If drugs are stored in places that are equally accessible to all roommates, then police can and will assume that innocent parties are involved in the event of a search. Additionally, the college itself can impose its own disciplinary actions totally independently of local law enforcement.

Constructive possession can presume that a person has some control over contraband while not being in physical possession of it. Drugs stored in a closet in a shared room implies that anyone living there has constructive possession of them. Simply stating that the substances belong to another person but are easily accessible by you is the definition of constructive possession.

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The Money Pit

Is purchasing an off campus house a good 4-year investment?

Buying a house is usually one of the largest purchases you ever make. Conversely, spending thousands of dollars on rental housing during college is good money lost. There are pros and cons for both renting and buying, so we will look at the big picture.

Student housing is not cheap, with the current cost of living on campus for a year between $9,000 and $11,500. Off-campus accommodation can cost even more, adding to your expenses and student debt. Many parents and students question whether paying a landlord or college is sensible finance.

An alternative to spending around $40,000 for student housing is to buy a property and sell it after you graduate. According to reports, the median price of an existing home in the U.S. is around $190,000. Naturally, this will vary depending on city and type of property, with houses near universities often more expensive. Still, it may make financial sense to buy a house and sell it for a potential profit after 4-5 years.

Realtors claim that this short period is not enough time to make a profit after subtracting purchase costs. Breaking even still saves the $40,000 otherwise spent on rent. Buying an off-campus house is not a long-term investment, but it can save money and may even turn into a small profit.

The likelihood of turning a profit is influenced by the location of house and the competitive rates for other student rentals. In some states, off-campus student housing can cost as much as $4,000 per month. Real estate professionals suggest purchasing lower-end properties in the sub $200K price range. These would sell quickly later and tie up less capital.

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Big Brother

I see video cameras on campus, am I being watched?

Your question covers almost everywhere people gather today. Nine out of ten campuses employ video-camera surveillance for protection, and students are taking notice. With the incidence of campus shootings more than doubling in the last five years, campuses are cracking down on crime and trying to promote safety. We do not editorialize on the issues of privacy versus safety, but provide unbiased information.

With a large adoption rate and another ten percent of universities planning to get cameras installed, they have become an everyday part of life for students and faculty. The majority of those with video-surveillance systems installed plan on expanding them within the next three years.

In general, camera systems get positive feedback from those on campus, from a safety aspect and as a criminal deterrent. Fixed security cameras are most popular, with 78 percent of colleges using them. Almost 50 percent of respondents to a Campus Safety magazine survey said that they have purchased network video recorders and video-management software.

The list of uses and advantages of employing a video-surveillance system is long. Cameras and video footage can be implemented as a criminal deterrent and used in evidence in cases of theft, assault, gang control, arson, and gun crime. For accident documentation, cameras provide digital eyes on campus grounds, parking lots, and busy intersections. They can also be used for medical emergencies, weather emergencies, partnerships with local law enforcement, employee discipline, risk management, and event organization.

Would-be thieves think twice about coming onto campus during lunch hours to steal from offices and staff if they are being watched. Students think twice about taking or selling illicit substances and staff disciplinary issues decline.

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Data Distress

I actively shop online. Who is responsible if a hacker steals my personal information?

Your question is important to anyone using the internet. Online shopping has become the norm for most of us and it amasses our personal information. Cybercriminals are fully aware of this and actively target e-tailers and their customers. Your data should be safe with them, but many cybercrimes have revealed that is not always true.

According to research, eight out of ten Americans shop online. This is a huge jump from 22 percent back in 2000. Over half of us have purchased something from our mobile phones, and 15 percent have clicked through a link shared on social media. Convenience has fueled this shift in shopping habits. High competition has also driven prices down, so items sold online can often be cheaper than those in retail stores.

When opening an online account, you need to provide personal and financial information. Data breaches are occurring more frequently and even Fortune 500 companies are getting hacked. Vulnerabilities are exploited daily and some enormous leaks of personal information have occurred in recent years.

Yahoo, for example, reported an attack in 2016 that resulted in 32 million accounts compromised, and the company is not alone. In recent years eBay, LinkedIn, Myspace, Tumblr, Facebook, Sony, Adobe and JP Morgan Chase have all suffered cyberattacks and data breaches. So, can they be held accountable for protecting your data?

As with most legal issues, it is a grey area. Federal laws governing cybercrime are often overseen by other agencies with varying levels of authority. The Federal Trade Commission Act strives to hold companies directly responsible for the protection of the consumer information they possess. Organizations can be held liable for failing to secure their systems against cyberattacks. For example, these threats have led the FOREX industry to make a large investment in data protection. In other industries, several fines have been handed out in recent years to companies and FTC penalties for transgressions now stand at around $40,000 per offense.

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It’s Not My Default

I am ashamed to say I will probably default on my student loan. Is there anything I can do to stop or delay it?

You are not alone in defaulting on a student loan. Reports indicate that almost 11 percent of students are in default this year. The weight of debt is overwhelming, but defaulting will make things worse. A damaged credit score and even deeper debt can be the result, so let us look at your options.

There are a number of precautions to prevent student loan defaults. It is important to know your financial situation and understand what causes things to break down. This will happen if your budget is tight and an unexpected bill appears. If your interest rate or repayment unexpectedly increases, you could be sent into default. Automatic default can also happen if your co-signer has declared bankruptcy or passed away.

If you have missed a payment, there is no need to panic. Federal student loans do not officially go into default until they have been unpaid for 270 days. They will enter delinquency though as soon as you miss a payment. Private student loans are not so lenient and will go into default the moment a payment is missed. If you have the means to make a payment do it, because a default will damage your credit score magnifying your problems.

Application for repayment suspension, deferment, or forbearance can put off payments for a set period. Be aware that forbearance still accrues interest on the loan. Federal student loans or Perkins loans may offer deferment options without interest, but private lenders are unlikely to provide this. Your choices depend on your personal situation, unemployment or economic hardship, with deferment available for up to three years.

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Nest Egg

Our fraternity needs expensive renovations. How can we raise the money?

This question will test the relationship between the college administration and the frat house. All student housing needs to be maintained to a certain standard to comply with college regulations. Universities are primarily concerned with the well-being of their students, so your fraternity building must be kept in safe condition.

The responsibility for maintenance is determined by the agreement between the fraternity and college. This is not a standard contract and will vary from campus to campus. Many colleges feel that frat houses are beyond control and need to be self-regulating. They will often try to distance themselves from fraternities legally and draw up a chapter occupancy agreement to cover tenancy and the physical condition of the buildings.

When renovations are needed the responsibility usually falls on the fraternity to raise the funding. Many believe that fraternity alumni have deep pockets, but soliciting former brothers is not always successful. Costs have risen so much in the past two decades that renovation can now cost more than the original structure.

Building a reserve fund for the chapter should be a top priority. This begins by educating your governing board on the costs of repair and renovation and the consequences of delaying work. Gifts and fundraising programs from brothers and their families are another source of funding. A phased plan for renovation or replacement of the chapter house should be set out. Surveys on the physical condition of the building, fixtures and fittings should also be undertaken. This helps justify requests for contributions, if you have documented your immediate needs.

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Virtual Addiction

I heard of internet addiction camps in China. Do they have them in the U.S.?

Internet addiction is a growing concern in the classroom, workplace and home. College students in particular have been observed to withdraw from studies because of online obsession. Some U.S. colleges are now counseling students struggling with internet addiction, offering workshops and advisory services on cyber abuse. In answer to your question, there are indeed a number of internet rehab facilities popping up across the country.

Moving to college gives students freedom not experienced while living with parents, including unfettered access to the internet. Many parents, knowing the dangers of addiction, may limit online use for their kids. Once you get to campus these limits are gone.

Unless you can self-regulate your browsing habits, there now exists a chance of becoming addicted to the internet. Studies have revealed that 71% of internet addicts are 18-24 years old, and almost 40% of Americans socialize online more than in person. Over 400 million people globally are said to be addicted to the internet.

Symptoms of internet addiction can include obsessive behavior, frustration, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and vision problems. Typical characteristics often displayed by teens are anger and irritability, lying about internet usage, decline in work performance, knowing more people online than in person, and poor nutrition and personal hygiene.

Internet addiction is treated using a range of tactics by Chinese medical institutions and the U.S. is following suit. Online addicts in China are often sent to boot camps by their parents, where they undergo military-style exercises and therapy sessions. It was the first country in the world to consider internet addiction a medical disorder and, according to local media, has 24 million addicts.

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Dorm Debate

Our university is letting private companies build and own the dorms. Shouldn't the school provide housing?

The student housing debate has raged since colleges first opened. Your question covers a major factor of college life, your housing. With trends in student housing changing, colleges are looking for ways to maximize real estate space and comfort, while making it affordable to build and rent.

A combination of high demand from students and tightening state budgets has forced universities to look towards the private sector for accommodations. Colleges have found that private companies can design and build residence halls far quicker and cheaper than they can themselves. This type of partnership could also free funds for campus facilities such as classrooms, libraries, and laboratories.

A number of public universities have already entered into such partnerships including Arizona State, Portland State, University of California, and the University of Kentucky. One recent major project is the 200-room dorm facility at Terra State Community College in Ohio. Partnering with a private developer has allowed them to add retail space to the residence building, explains Cincinnati real estate agents. Private colleges tend to be smaller and often self-fund their student housing projects.

The recent real estate boom has seen luxury apartments springing up within close proximity to campuses. But these pricey, fully loaded accommodations are aimed at the well off, so colleges need to look at on-campus housing developments once again.

Finding the most cost-effective way to build campus accommodation is now the priority for many academic institutions. Private companies are also increasingly investing their own finances into many of these projects in efforts to make them more attractive to colleges. Other services such as sanitation, laundry, and garbage collection can also be privatized. Third-party management companies take these roles away from the college allowing them to focus on education. In some instances, the property developers are also the landlords with students paying them directly.

Companies often enter into partnerships which include long leases and management contracts, freeing up cash flow for the college. The priority for most institutions is directing funds towards academic requirements and increasing access and affordability for students. Housing is a part of that equation but it exists to help students succeed at college.

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Library Lament

Are college libraries still used by students in a digital age?

Since all students do research, either in a library or online, this question applies to every college. The digital age has changed libraries and how we use them. Many colleges are giving their libraries a makeover to provide students an environment and the technology for a new type of learning experience.

Library upgrades are aimed at providing students with flexible and more comfortable spaces to work alone or in groups. Using temporary walls and wheeled units allows public spaces to be changed to suit requirements. Libraries are moving away from the traditional rooms of static shelves with books and archives.

The challenge for colleges has always been funding their ambitious expansion plans. Renovation of existing structures requires a capital outlay with no offset in additional revenues, cautions Michigan financial consultants. However, a new campus building can generate tuition-based revenue with the addition of new students and programs.

Colleges are using the term ‘makerspace’ for an area where students can create and physically make things. Libraries have become far more practical with technology assisting this forward transformation. 3D printers and scanners are used in modern libraries along with wet areas and art supplies, making the entire library experience more hands-on. 

Designers are often working with older library buildings, so they have to efficiently renovate existing spaces, explains executives for charter school management. This involves cutting back on books and periodicals, or specializing in content on a particular area or region. There is no longer the need for every college library to house the same books and compete on the size of its collection.

Furthermore, students are being taught online literacy skills so they can quickly find and recognize high-quality search engine results. Advocates claim that librarians are needed now to guide students away from fake news and information across social media. According to a Stanford University study students are still having difficulty determining what content is genuine online.

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A Time to Buy

Should I get a job after grad school or try to buy my own business?

This question touches everyone dreaming of running their own business after college rather than getting a salaried job. The majority of grads will follow the traditional path in their working lives with a position at somebody else’s company. But owning and managing your own business has both pros and cons as we will discuss.

Studies by Harvard Business School revealed that students planning to seek, buy, and operate a business generally fall into three groups. A third begin looking for a company to purchase after graduation, a third decide that the path is not for them, and a third plan to work for a few years to continue learning and pay off student debts.

Very few actually leave regular employment and create or buy their own businesses. This raises the question on when is the right time to purchase a business. You learn a lot about business working after graduation, but this tends to be at a larger corporation, not a small company.

Amassing capital by working at a traditional job to finance a purchase is an idea shared by many with entrepreneurial aspirations. Experience shows that this is unlikely, with debts, taxes, rent or mortgage, healthcare, and other bills, accumulating wealth during your first years is an uphill battle.

Getting financial support to secure a small business is one option that will test your financial skills. You may have to barter, borrow and beg to get your business off the ground, explain management at firm offering oil painting reproductions, as it is unlikely you will be able to afford one that is already highly profitable.

There is no guaranteed paycheck when running your own business. Being self-employed does offer greater flexibility, but you will probably have to put in more hours. On the upside, this is probably the best stage in your life to take the chance, confide owners at liquidation firm. You have yet to incur financial responsibility when you start a family. If the business fails, you still have time to learn from those mistakes in another venture.

You can still leverage support from your college, professors and alumni. Depending on what business you enter, there could be a huge market with which you are already familiar, college students. Running a business has a steep learning curve, because you have several roles including manager, accountant, marketer and researcher.

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