Last updateWed, 15 Nov 2017 2pm

Ask the Experts


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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Gluten for Punishment

Should I consider a gluten-free diet?

We are constantly being told what to eat and what not to eat in an ever-changing cycle of dietary information. Knowing what is just a fad and what has any real science behind it can be challenging, so this question deserves thorough consideration. The current culinary trend is gluten-free so we will look into the facts behind the nutritional advice.

Gluten is a general term for the proteins found in wheat, rye, malt and barley. It can be broken down into two main proteins: glutenin and gliadin, the latter being responsible for most negative health issues. When flour and water are mixed, gluten forms a glue-like structure than binds the dough together giving it the familiar texture we find in breads.

The list of foods that contains gluten is long so you may want to pay attention if you really want to give all of these up. It can be found in all wheat- and barley-based products including all bread products, cakes, biscuits, alcohol, pasta, cereals, and some soups and sauces. Many manufacturers have introduced gluten-free brands, say beverage distributors of alcoholic drinks.

Gluten intolerance is the body’s inability to break down and digest the proteins found in the above foods. Most people can tolerate gluten just fine, but for some it can cause severe digestive discomfort. Wheat allergies are one cause, but extreme cases are triggered by Celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder which causes the body to react to gluten by releasing an immune attack on the lower intestine.

Statistics have shown an increase in the disease over the years which currently affects approximately 1% of the U.S. population. Over time this disease can cause damage to the intestinal tract and effect nutrient absorption. Another possible risk is intestinal cancer, warn cancer care experts at a Maryland facility.

There are a few benefits to a gluten-free diet but these are mainly experienced by people with gluten intolerance. In this case, reducing gluten will alleviate the digestive discomfort and start the path to intestinal repair. Eating less processed food is always a good thing, but eliminating gluten all together, unless necessary, may not be the answer.

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Roommate Blues

I accidentally discovered my roommate is taking antidepressants. Now I feel a need to watch out for her. What can I do to help her?

We appreciate your regard for the welfare of your roommate and can help you to gain some insight into this serious issue. You may need to have a frank conversion with her about how you can help. Having a roommate who is suffering from depression can cause you to have feelings of frustration, guilt and anger.

There is no doubting the fact that life at college can be stressful. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) 85% of college students reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do within the last year. Around 30% said that stress had negatively affected their academic performance and just under 42% claimed anxiety was the top concern for students.

Depression is a medical condition that goes beyond general sadness and lack of energy that we all get from time to time. It is linked with chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters which play a role in mood regulation, explains staff offering treatment at Beachside rehab. Low levels of these chemicals can lead to mood swings and feelings of anger, irritability, lethargy and despondency.

Depression is at an all-time high among college students. Consequently, the percentage of college students taking antidepressants has grown over the past two decades. 

Living with someone that has clinical depression can be a challenge; they can often lash out at you without explanation. It is important to recognize that this is a medical condition and the sufferer may not have full control over their emotions. Learning the symptoms of depression is the first step towards helping someone afflicted with it. If you notice any self-harm, you should contact student health services immediately. In addition, other symptoms include insomnia, hopelessness, frustration, loss of appetite, loss of interest in normal activities, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

Medication to alleviate these symptoms is available by prescription and there are many different varieties of antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Sarafem and Celexa. It is likely your roommate is taking one of these or something similar.

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Fearless Freshman

I am entering freshman year with a chronic medical condition. My mom worries more than I do. Is it best just to keep the problem to myself?

With the increasing number of undergraduate students entering college with a chronic illness, you bring up a sensitive question. Most students struggle with coursework and other campus-related issues, but those with chronic illnesses face the additional burden of managing their condition.

The first thing that you should consider is that you are not alone in your struggle. You will be out of your comfort zone for the first time and without your regular network of support and health advice, from your parents, friends and familiar doctors. But there will be an alternative support network available at your college. Keeping it to yourself may make college life a lot worse for you.

The first port of call should be Disability Student Services, a department that every college must have under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You should arrange a meeting with your campus disabilities counselor before you start your freshman year. This can be a lengthy process so it is best to do it before you are overwhelmed with the start of college. DSS will want to look at your medical records to determine the severity of your condition and decide on any action to take.

Your accommodation arrangement is first to consider, perhaps being assigned a single room may suit your needs more than a shared dorm. The decision to explain your condition to your roommates and classmates is yours alone. If you are using a cpap machine, your condition cannot be concealed from roommates. Some chose not wanting to burden other students or invite unwanted sympathy. It can be repetitive going over the same explanations, so you may want to limit what you divulge only to close friends.

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Game Off

While visiting my son at school, I noticed much less sports activity than when I was a student. Why aren’t young people playing sports?

This is a growing concern in today’s culture, because youth sports participation is on the decline. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the number of kids that played a team sport on a regular basis decreased from 44.5 percent in 2008 to 40 percent in 2013, and that number has been on the decline ever since. These red flags emphasize the severity of the U.S. ‘inactivity pandemic’.

The statistics speak for themselves with reports claiming that youth participation in Little Leagues across America declined from 3 million in the 1990s to 2.4 million in 2012, and is still falling. Baseball is just one sport that kids are quitting or just not picking up, underlying a sense that sports in general has become too demanding.

Parents are claiming that there is just too much competition in school sports leagues now and fewer opportunities for development and recreation. According to a report in the WSJ, participation in all sports has dropped by 9% nationwide over the past five years. Further figures from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association are broken down into individual sports with soccer declining 7.1%, baseball 7.2% and basketball 8.3%. Ice hockey and lacrosse conversely showed increases in uptake.

Previous generations traditionally played in free local sports leagues needing just softball bats and gloves, but the last two decades have seen a rise in elite leagues where kids travel to play better teams across the nation. This is estimated to be a $5 billion industry. Parents are struggling to afford participation in such leagues which excludes a lot of kids. The level of competition fragments as a result leaving the best players, with the more affluent parents, in the elite leagues and everyone else in the city leagues.

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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