Last updateFri, 17 Nov 2017 9pm

Ask the Experts


Cooking Conundrum

I finally moved into an off-campus apartment this semester with a newly re-done kitchen. I’m most excited about avoiding the Dining Hall food, but I’m not the greatest cook just yet. How can I take my cooking skills to the next level?

First of all, congratulations on choosing a great hobby! While 98% of Americans say they prefer to cook their meals at home, many of us don’t find the time to make this a reality. We should: in addition to being fun and rewarding, learning how to cook can be great for your health. Studies tell us that people who cook for themselves are much healthier - which is no surprise, because we also know that eating a lot of take-out and restaurant food is quite bad for you. In fact, just living near a fast food restaurant means that, statistically speaking, you are 5.2% more likely to be obese!

While home-cooked food is often (but not always) better for you than the foods served by popular restaurants, take-out spots, and fast food eateries, there is no denying that restaurant food does seem to have a special taste to it.

Part of this, of course, is due to the chef. While you are no doubt a great cook, a chef may have a degree that requires between nine months and four years of schooling - to say nothing of the years they spend working their way up to the top job at your local eatery. That is a lot of experience going into each meal that you eat at a restaurant!

Of course, practice alone is not the reason for the success of those chefs. They also have a few other advantages.

For one, commercial kitchens are outfitted with the very best in kitchen appliances. Top-of-the-line ovens can cook food in different ways: for instance, some ovens can act both as conventional ovens (which have heating units on their tops and bottoms, allowing for both broiling and baking) and convection ovens (which move hot air around for fast cooking). Some luxury kitchen appliances can replicate these things in the home, so it is possible for hobbyists to get some of the key tools that the professionals use. According to one of the more tech-forward appliance retailers, their customers are most excited about the longevity they get from their appliances above all else. It’s true that in this case, quality really does matter.

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Proper Painting

I just moved into an apartment off-campus and want to spruce it up a bit. I’d like to at least repaint it, but I also want to avoid making mistakes or doing anything that could cause me any trouble later. Any tips?

You are not alone in your enthusiasm for a “do it yourself” solution. In fact, statistics suggest that young people like yourself are more likely to opt for a DIY option than their parents are - particularly when savings are involved. Statistics portal Statista reports that, in a 2012 poll, an incredible 84 percent of respondents said they would tackle a DIY project to avoid spending too much cash. Enthusiasm waned with each successive age group, suggesting that you are at the perfect time in your life to take on a project like this.

Of course, painting a room presents some challenges. But it is something that many amateurs take on: interior decorating projects are the single most popular type of home improvement project, according to a poll taken before the no-call list went into effect, and three out of four respondents (including those doing other types of projects) planned to do the work themselves in order to save money.

Mistakes are always possible, of course. But the DIY experts at the DIY Channel have weighed in on methods for avoiding some of the most common. A common refrain among experts is the importance of good preparation. Your concerns about harming your room or your possessions can be addressed with proper preparation. Experts use drop cloths to protect furniture (though you can also move furniture to another room or place it in a storage facility until the job is finished). The DIY Channel pros remind you to remove outlets, use painters tape and plastic to protect areas you do not want to paint, and to prep the surface you want to paint by cleaning and clearing it of dust.

As for the environment, you are right to note paint’s potential impact on our planet. Paint has used additives like lead for time immemorial. These toxic ingredients are used as solvents, but they cause problems when they are released into the air during the painting process. Over time, painters and experts got wise to the impact those additives had on humans and, eventually, to the problems those additives could cause the environment.

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Elderly Edifice

My parents are putting my grandmother into a nursing home. I’m worried about this decision, as many of the nursing students I know have mixed feelings about elderly care facilities. Are they safe?

While there have been tragic incidents of neglect and abuse in nursing homes, the good news is that the short answer to your question is yes. These incidents are statistically uncommon, and the facts back nursing homes as a good option for the elderly.

Much of what we know about elder abuse we owe to the organizations that track and combat it. Elder abuse is an issue that is likely to take on increasing importance as our society ages: the percentage of Americans over the age of 60 is climbing, and is expected to top 20 percent by 2050, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

But not all elder abuse happens in nursing homes, and very few nursing homes are guilty of abuse. Per the NCEA, nursing home abuse first became a national issue in the 1970s, and since then, we have gotten much better at identifying and eradicating it - though more research is still needed.

Nursing homes, rehab centers, and retirement communities now recognize the threat of elder abuse. Oversight programs and safeguards are now the norm and priorities at these institutions have changed in others ways, too. Modern facilities approach healthy senior living in holistic ways that would have been rare thirty years ago. The experts at Riddle Village Retirement Community describe their goal as making sure seniors are “ready to enjoy their lives.” Happiness - not just health - has become a priority in the business.

This does not necessarily mean that nursing homes are entirely healthy places. Some studies have suggested that the life expectancy of people in nursing homes is shorter than that of their independent peers. These studies control for age and, as much as possible, for health, but it is worth remembering that it is difficult to precisely measure all the factors at play in an older population making end-of-life decisions. And a shorter life expectancy does not necessarily translate to proof of abuse.

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Legal Limit

I got a health checkup before school. Now my parents want me to see their lawyer. What are they afraid of?

Parents continue to be responsible for their children even when they go to college. It is natural that in our litigious society they want to make sure you are legally prepared for any eventuality.  When something goes wrong mom and dad usually end up paying for it. With over 15 million civil lawsuits filed in America every year, it pays to have some knowledge of legal liability.

You will be getting your first taste of freedom at college. There will be parties and shenanigans, so you need to understand what can happen when things go wrong. Parents are usually held responsible even though their kids are living away on campus. Over indulgence with drugs and alcohol can lead to some undesirable outcomes. You may need legal advice if you are the cause.

College students with limited driving experience are prime targets for litigation involving negligence and vehicles. You should be well aware of what can happen in the event of a traffic accident. If your parents own the vehicle, they may be implicated for your negligent operation, so they need to ensure they are covered legally.

Reckless driving, especially with students, is on the rise leading to pedestrian accidents and injuries. The law varies from state to state, in New York for example the owner of the vehicle is liable, not the driver. Your parents’ lawyer will want to make sure that you are clearly aware of the responsibilities of driving, especially if it is their car.

Students also often lend cars to their friends or share one amongst the dorm or frat house. Legal issues could arise if a driver is not insured, or worse does not have a license. Depending on the law where you live, the responsibility may not be with the person that causes the accident.

Your parents may want you to register the car in your own name and assume that responsibility. Be aware that if you are irresponsible with a car it could force you to leave college, especially if alcohol is involved.

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Family Finance

My parents are headed for divorce. Will I have to drop out because they signed for my student loans?

The anxiety of divorce on top of college stress can be a lot to manage. Now you have to consider how your student debt will be affected by their decision. Your financial aid eligibility will indeed change if your parents’ marital status does, so here is what you need to know.

Surprisingly, divorce rates have fallen in previous years but the current statistics are not encouraging. There is still a 50-50 chance that a marriage will last a lifetime. In many cases, parents will begrudgingly stay together for the sake of the kids, often waiting until they leave home before deciding to split. In your case, they are divorcing while you are still studying so this will affect your aid eligibility, possibly to your advantage.

Generally, Federal Student Aid is determined by the financial status of your parents. When a divorce happens, one parent must take over as the custodial parent, this is the one you will be living with over half of the time. Their financial status will now be considered for calculating your benefits. The non-custodial parent is not included financially and does not affect your student aid.

It is possible that you will be eligible for more benefits under FAFSA this way. Choosing the parent with lower earnings as your custodial parent will increase your potential federal benefits. It sounds harsh to choose depending on their earnings, but your education is at stake so your parents will probably be in agreement. Studies show having more financial aid increases the likelihood that you will complete your degree.

A college support agreement should be completed at the time of the divorce. It covers you legally by specifying which parent is responsible for your college costs. It can be used to allocate expenses designating which parent is contributing towards tuition, accommodation, books or living expenses. Without a plan, you risk losing your financial aid or could suddenly need to refinance student debt in order to remain in college.

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Life Lesson

My company is sponsoring a lecture series from life coaches, aimed at young employees. Should I spend the time to attend this? 

We are receiving this question often, as life coaching becomes more popular and successful.  According to the International Coaching Federation, over 40 percent of people using professional coaches believe it enhanced their work/life balance. The right program can help you identify areas for growth in personal leadership, self-confidence and self-care. But what you learn is only as good as your teacher.

The list of benefits from personal coaching is a long one and includes enhanced decision making skills, fresh perspectives on personal challenges, and increased confidence. You will also see an improvement in productivity, which is why companies are eager to send their staff to these courses.

Many new employees go through stages of feeling stuck, needing a new approach, and wanting more purpose. Life coaches can make a difference and initiate significant changes in your life that will be beneficial both in and out of the workplace. They are highly trained at seeing when you are not being truthful to yourself and limiting your own abilities. A good coach can push you to your limits to help you achieve what you want out of life, while recognizing when you may not be firing on all cylinders.

Besides a productivity boost, life coaching can also help you build interpersonal relationships, communication skills and improve your work/life balance. Around 86 percent of companies stay that they saw a return on investment when sending workers to coaching sessions, some as much as 300 percent. Nearly all participants and companies say that they have been satisfied with the results of life coaching, according to the International Coach Federation.

One drawback is the lack of regulation in the industry, not all coaches are professional and many have not been trained properly. The quality of coaches may vary dramatically as a result, so it is best to seek one with a good background and experience, and accreditation from the ICF. Fortunately, company-sponsored coaches are typically hired because of past successes and experience. A professional life coach will not tell you what to do or advise you, their job is to identify your options and hold you accountable for your own challenges.

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Healing Hands

I am studying to be a nurse. Why are there more men in the higher-paying nurse specialty fields?

The gender pay gap in the medical profession has been a point of contention for many years. There is always a steady demand for nurses and more men are entering the field than in previous years. Being a registered nurse is a rewarding career path, a burgeoning healthcare system ensures that unemployment rates remain low. Since the majority of nurses are women, pay discrepancies have arisen in some specialty areas of the healthcare sector.

According to the Journal of American Medical Association, this gender pay gap has not narrowed in recent years. Traditionally, women accounted for over 90 percent of nursing positions. Three decades ago only 3 percent were men. Numbers of men in nursing today have risen to around 12 percent but it still remains low. Stigma and a perception that nursing is woman’s work have kept men out of the field for decades. This is gradually changing as the job market shifts, because male-oriented manufacturing work has lost 5 million jobs while education and healthcare positions have increased by 9 million.

The point of contention is that men are earning more than women in the same field. Research indicates that male registered nurses earn on average $5,000 per year more than women in similar specialty areas and positions. A few years ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the median weekly salary of female registered nurses was 86.6 percent of what their male counterparts earned.

Data from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses has been analyzed by various research firms to provide their figures. It revealed that pay imbalances occurred across most specialty areas. The gap for ambulatory care was $7,678, hospital settings saw a gap of $3,873, chronic care $3,792, and $6,034 for cardiology. Researchers estimated that over a 30-year career female registered nurses would have earned around $155,000 less than men.

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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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Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151