Last week I got an e-mail from my state representative discussing solutions to the rising cost of college. Here are my representative’s ideas on SF 2361 –making college affordable. They read like a collection of unsubstantiated fixes that do nothing to make college more affordable or to keep college costs down. If anything, they require both more administration and a fast track to college education that might not benefit students. His absurd thoughts about college costs sent me to do some research. Why are college costs rising?
I found some things that surprised me. For example, this is a highly partisan issue. Republicans blame colleges and Democrats wish to make more money available to keep costs down. This is what my research taught me:
College costs have been rising rapidly since the 1980s. Here’s a chart showing this rise. What happened in the 1980s? Reaganomics. Reaganomics is an unproven economic theory which is pretty much the boat that Republicans cling to even today–cutting taxes, especially at the top, and shifting spending to the military will stimulate growth in all areas. Thus, government support for education came crashing down, and falls down whenever Republicans are in charge of the budget. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this policy works for the nation or not. All I can say is that this is when it all began.
The costs per student have risen over time, even as student-faulty ratios have increased, meaning that faculty salaries can’t be the cause of rising college costs. Here are some references, although you will have to wade through them. However, let’s look at personnel as a cost factor for a moment. As Central College President Mark Putnam points out, colleges are “professional services.” They require on face to face contact with educated and sought after professionals. Doctors, dentists,and lawyers are other examples of such professionals. These sectors of our economy can’t increase productivity without decreasing quality. They can’t replace workers with robots or outsource to another area of the globe. Yes, there are on-line colleges and Trump University but they aren’t as valuable as being on campus in classrooms, doing hands-on things such as research with professors. As we all know, part of getting along in the workplace is learning to work with others, to have team work. However, although it is difficult to decrease worker costs, faculty salaries are NOT the main reason for tuition increases. Not only have faculty salaries risen slowly, slower than inflation, they account for around thirty cents of every tuition dollar. Also, college and university faculty get paid less than their private sector counterparts. In fact, professors are considered underpaid. Why do they still teach? Besides finding it enjoyable and a public good, they are willing to take less salary in order to have job security. Like other areas of the private sector, colleges are faced with rising medical and dental benefits for their full-time staff. However, instruction quality increases when faculty have adequate benefits.
Extra administration has often been cited for the increase in college costs. Non-teaching staff and administration make up the bulk of a college’s cost nowadays. Some of these positions, in IT for example, did not exist in the days of low tuition. Others are in areas such as counseling and fund raising that either meet a need or secure funds for the future. More administration is most certainly is a reason for higher costs. However, colleges have a lot of extra accountability these days and parents do want their students to have access to many of these services. In fact, studies have shown that college students today are more needy, perhaps due to helicopter parenting or life’s harsh realities or even parental demands that colleges assist the students with every challenge. Students and parents do not want any surprises. In my own experience, not only have administrative costs risen, what needs to be put on a syllabus has skyrocketed as well. I suspect that much of this comes from the diverse group of students who attend college. No longer is it just for the privileged few who have parents who went to college and can give advice. It’s been, thankfully, opened to many and administrators and advisers are needed to keep pace with the demands.
Colleges face huge costs when it comes to technology. I personally oversee a fleet of measuring instruments. Many were not commonly used when I began teaching and now are so routine that every lab must have one in order to teach students the skills they need for the future. I got outside grants to pay for them but they still add expense as they must be maitained. Personal computers have been cited as a huge expense for colleges and universities. Having a high technology program on campus such as an engineering or medical college also raises costs.
Colleges get about half of the money it takes to run them from tuition. Even as tuition is rising, it doesn’t pay the full cost of educating students. Other sources of money to pay for college include private donations, government money, and grants from private and government sources. Personal giving has helped keep colleges and universities affordable.
A few reasons floated for the tuition increases include cushy dorms and other attempts at branding. This occurred in the past ten-fifteen years as colleges struggled to differentiate themselves from each other. Another idea is that costs have gone up because there is too much demand for college. Those who can’t afford it simply shouldn’t go. These are theories only. I’m not saying these haven’t raised costs but I am not seeing the numbers to prove it, particularly for the second one. However, college costs rose after the GI bill so there might be some credibility to it.
Perhaps the most cited reason for tuition increase is this one: less support from the government has helped raise tuition costs. Tuition is lower in states that support higher education. Here in Iowa, the change in state appropriation for higher education has decreased nearly 20% over the past fifteen years while college tuition has gone up just 7%. Colleges are trying to hold the line on tuition increases and making do with less. This LESS is due to cutbacks. Reaganomics.
I’m not an expert on college tuition and the rise in costs are complicated. Feel free to disagree with me! For simplicity’s sake, if you are angry about the cost of college and want something to put on a dart board, I offer this official photo of the man who started it all.
“The sun gets up! And so do you! Up ear number one. Ear number two.” A Great Day for Up is one of those kids books I clearly relate to. Even a smidgen of sunshine in the morning has me jumping up from bed, happy to start the day. Yes, I’m a lark and as we approach summer solstice, I get more and more lark-like, up earlier and earlier. I even shed a pound or two–and I’m not alone. There’s a holiday coming up for people like me–Daylight Savings Time, DST, or as some call it Daylight Summer Time.
The practice of setting clocks ahead began in Germany during WWI as an energy-saving measure but quickly spread across the globe. It’s fallen in and out of use in Europe and in the United States but has been a staple in the United States since 1966 and in Europe, beginning with France in 1976. Here in the U.S. it starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November (it was extended in 2005). Only Arizona and Hawaii don’t participate in the clock moving ritual.
In 1973-1975 it lasted the whole year in an effort to save energy but was abandoned because some felt that the dark mornings were too dangerous for school kids who mostly walked to school back then. It was also implemented year-round for most of WWII.
The transition can be rough for the first day or two and a study has shown heart attacks, accidents, and cluster headaches rise on the Monday after (March 12 this year). Some of this could be caused by an alarm clock itself, although I couldn’t find the original reference for this. Other studies say that car accidents decrease during this time and that the health effects only bother a few people who got too little sleep. In the U.S., the DST corresponds to fewer deaths per month than Standard Time.
In 2018, Daylight Savings Time begins March 11 and ends November 4. Time to begin your preparation.
I try to prep for the DST holiday by getting up a little earlier each day until it arrives. The birds help me, singing at the ever earlier sunrises each day. Male songbirds such as cardinals and robins begin singing before dawn in the spring as they stake out territory and look for a mate. They’ll start as early as 4 am which would be 3 am without daylight savings time. Do we really want that?
Not long ago I read a comment on a Facebook post: “mass murderers must not have been spanked enough as children”. It seemed counter intuitive. It’s well known that abused and neglected children suffer physical and mental health consequences. They are more likely to commit crimes, suffer from addictions, enter into poor relationships, and even die young. But what about good old fashioned corporal punishment? How bad is it? Could a few well-placed spankings have prevented a mass murderer from forming? I decided to look into it.
Here in the U.S., 70% of parents find some sort of physical punishment necessary. We aren’t talking abut beating or hitting with objects. We’re talking spankings. The United States is among the high-spanking -rate countries. High spanking is also common in African countries. The UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, and Mexico are low spanking countries. Australia and Germany transitioned from a high spanking countries to a low spanking countries
Hunter-gatherers do not spank their children, (They let their children do things such as hold knives at a young age and encourage them to be helpful by cutting up vegetables and learn from their experience should they cut themselves.) Rates of spanking and physical discipline vary among cultures.
Spanked kids do much worse on tests of cognitive development and mathematical ability. Spanking decreases intelligence. This is pronounced if the spanking is “high frequency” and comes from the father.
Whatever you do, don’t do a search for “spanking and wife beating”. You’ll find all sorts of erotic videos and also links to Christian masculinity. There’s a connection. Being spanked means that a child is more likely to grow up to engage in domestic violence. Spanked children are more likely to become adults with many sexual and relationship problems including coercing another to have sex, risky sex such as sex without a condom, and being aroused by sexual pain.
American criminologists point out that violence begins in the home and is so deeply ingrained that no amount of punishment or incarceration will stop it once the children become adults. So much for the death penalty.
I was spanked as a kid. Not only did I resent it, I weighed every naughty thing I did against if it was worth a spanking. It usually was because spankings didn’t last as long as the fun of the mischief. I don’t think I turned out perverted but on the other hand, I’ve never minded being called naughty.
If I had a vivid imagination, I could conjure up some sinister reason for cutting funds to the CDC and the NIH as our recent Congress has done and create a fiction from it. Perhaps a corrupt leader wanted to kill off the type of people he didn’t like and had secret vaccination programs for his followers. His enemies would become infected and die. One way to do that would be with Influenza A.
There are two main categories of Influenza viruses, A,B., and C. Type A viruses cause the most trouble and can be found in humans and animals, including whales, cats, horses, and other animals,notably birds and pigs. (Bats have their own special viruses.) Influenza B is uncomfortable to humans but not deadly. There is also a human C virus which is milder yet. Influenza A can be deadly.
Besides A and B viruses are then categorized by their H and N types of proteins that they have in their outer coatings. If you want to read more about that here is a great description. Let’s just say that it takes a match up of the right H and N to allow a virus to invade your cells, hijack them, create “baby” viruses, and pop the cells to release moe viruses. That is how we get the designations such as H1H1 (the deadly Swine flu) and H2N3 (this year’s virulent strain.) Both of these, and all Influenzas, are zoonoses–infections that can move between people and animals.
Many Type A viruses can creep between birds, human, and pigs. If you look at charts from the CDC (why are we underfunding them by the way?) you can see that birds are a significant reservoir of these viruses. Shore birds including geese are potent carriers but other types of domestic and wild birds also carry viruses. For example N3 viruses are associated with ducks.
Most Influenza A viruses originate in birds. However, not many of these are easily transmitted to people. They can be transmitted to pigs. Pigs are a common go-between for viruses. Pigs and humans can infect each other with influenza more easily than birds and humans can infect each other. Pig flu symptoms are much like human flu symptoms.
And there are/were government funded scientists working on a universal flu vaccine, which we all want but is not profitable enough for big pharma to develop. That’s why we have to rely on public funds. Or if you have a sinister mind, the people who currently are in charge here in the United States do not want the common people to have this vaccine.
So before you vote, ask your politicians what they want to do with the meager bit of taxes they’ll be collecting. Do they want a Universal flu vaccine or something like a wall or a military parade? When you are laid low with the next flu epidemic or even pandemic, you probably aren’t going to care about all that stuff you accumulated. Consider your priorities.
Finally I got organized enough to get my laundry done.
My mom and I used to give each other dish towels as welcome home gifts when we traveled. I continued this tradition with my kids when they grew up. I love dishtowels. But I have so many that when they are all washed, I can’t close the dishtowel drawer.
I have so many socks that when they are washed, I can’t shut the sock drawer. I began to suspect that I have too many things.
I took stock of more than my laundry. I had three humidifiers but I decided I needed a different kind and ordered one. When it came, I hated it but since I used it before deciding I hated it, I couldn’t return it. Now I have four humidifiers.
As I was fretting about having too many things, my daughter dropped off sacks of old clothes for me to look through to see if I wanted any of it. It took me over a week to decide I wanted one shirt and one pair of pajamas. I took the rest to the Thrift Store but in truth nobody wants your old clothes. Clothes nowadays are so cheap that they can’t be recycled easily–not even for rags– and thrift stores have trouble selling them Often only 20-30% of donated clothing gets sold. Meanwhile, the textile industry produces more pollution than planes or automobiles.
Feeling guilty, I vowed to only wear old clothes. I stuck to this for one day. I got a compliment on a shirt that belonged to my daughter in the 90s! But before long I was thinking about how slow my phone is and cool it would be to get a phone and a watch that could charge together on a wireless charger. Yes, I was back in the clutches–and I don’t mean clutch purse although I have one of those, too.
Since WWII, the world has been gripped by a shopping frenzy. Some of this is because of planned obsolesce–things are designed to break and be hard to repair. Parts from one brand don’t fit into another brand. People have to buy to replace.
The other cause is Affluenza. Affluenza is a psychological condition caused by having too much, resulting in sadness and isolation. In the wealthy it manifests itself in a lack of motivation along with entitlement, isolation, and guilt. You can take a quiz to see how deep into it you are. Here are a few of the questions.
“Do you sometimes feel as though your personal expenses are so demanding that you can’t afford public expenses like schools, parks,and transit?”
“Have you ever experienced road rage?”
“Do you ever use shopping as “therapy”?”
“Do you get bored unless you have something to consume (goods, food, media)?”
I only scored a 22 on that test, no affluenza, although I can relate to getting bored easily. On this one, I got “mild “case of affluenza.
To put it into perspective, all living things collect and store. It’s natural to want to stock up for the future and to be safe and comfortable. However, things like advertising and the media can put false emphasis on things that you must buy to stay happy. The goal is to make you insecure so you’ll buy more than you need or even want.
One solution,of course is to not buy anything new unless you have room for it. Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that a whole lot of people out there want your old stuff. You buy it and you’ll more than likely have to keep it forever or have it go into the landfill.
Radon comes from beneath the soil. When the earth formed, heavier elements–those that are unstable and decay along with others such as gold, silver, and lead–settled lower in the earth than the lighter ones–carbon, nitrogen, etc. In fact, the earth’s core is hot because it is a nuclear reactor. The sun isn’t enough to keep the earth as warm as we need it to be. We need this reactor to keep the earth from being cold and barren. However, we don’t need this “hot” stuff at the surface. When soil is disrupted, a variety of radioactive materials can be released. Being a gas, radon can easily travel into our homes.
You can have a new house and have radon.
You can have an old house and have radon.
You can have a home built on a slope and have radon. You can have a home not on a slope and have radon, too.
You can have a walk-out basement and have radon.
You can have no basement and have radon. (If you have a house on stilts, you probably will have less radon.)
You can fill in a basement and have radon.
You can knock a house down, fill in the basement, put a slab over it, build a new structure, and have radon. This process disturbs the soil a lot.
Earthquakes can change the level of radon in your home.
Radon levels are often higher in the winter, during droughts, and on windy days.
Wells can bring radon into your home.
Homes in the same neighborhood can have different levels of radon.
Opening windows can help radon escape, but more will enter without remediation.
Radon is a problem in Iowa. (Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region also have high levels.) Many people have not tested because the danger wasn’t understood until around 1985 and this makes it seem like just one more thing to be scared about. There are no laws that require testing for it. But please do test. order a test kit
January is radon awareness month. It’s time to close this month and close out the radon in my basement.
Have you seen the photos? Delhi was enveloped in a haze of particulate matter. Its citizen’s lungs look as if they have been life-long chain-smokers. That’s in another country though. We’d never be so backwards, right? Think again. Here’s a blog about how dangerous the air is in Salt Lake City. Iowa has a problem, too, and with the powers that be in our current state and federal government, it won’t get any better.
Few things get my rage up like particulates and ignorant politicians. You can take a look here to see how long I have been talking about particulates. It’s hard to dislike a politician intensely and I try not to do so but Charles Grassley stands out as a man who is willfully ignorant about air pollution. And Iowa elects the man so dangerous to health over and over again. In fact, apparently the world does this as well.
Enough about him. Let’s take a look at a few causes of air pollution.
PM 25–otherwise known as fine particulates are a common source of pollution They are the tiny red dots on this illustration.
Once in your lungs they never leave, These things come from combustion–fossil fuels burning, forest and other fires, cigarettes, and chemical air pollution from industry. In fact, these things not only hurt your lungs, they weaken your bones, too.
Here in Iowa, there are plenty of other types of particulates to worry about “Feed, bedding materials, dry manure, unpaved soil surfaces, animal dander, poultry feathers” from CAFOs are a mixture of “fecal matter, feed materials, pollen, bacteria, fungi, skin cells, silicates” that can cause “Chronic bronchitis, chronic respiratory symptoms, declines in lung function, organic dust toxic syndrome.”
The air pollution regulations that began in the 1970s helped clear our air. But they aren’t enough and some are being rolled back. What can you do personally to help cut down on air pollution? Here are some ideas:
Turn off your car–don’t idle it. In fact, rethink car use and cut down where you can.
When you drive, keep your tires properly inflated.
Buy less on-line. Try to make more of your own things.
Take shorter showers and baths.
Un-plug appliances when not in use and turn off lights.
Don’t use a leaf blower.
Use an air purifier.
Share a room–by that I mean, gather in one or two rooms of your home each night and turn off the lights in the other rooms.
Use a clothes dryer.
Talk about air pollution!
Now that I look over the list, I see that there’s more I can do besides fume about politicians. After all, some of them are probably getting donations from a company that wants to make big bucks selling fresh air.
Removing radon from most homes is a simple process–a tube going beneath the foundation and a fan remove the radon and vent it outside, away from windows and places where people are most likely to go. The radon is quickly diluted by the outside air.
My house, however, wasn’t as easy as the picture shown above. First of all, the vent must be ten feet away from any windows that open. My house is filled with windows. We found a spot in the side yard to place the fan and vent. It was close to the high radon side of the house, too. We don’t hang out much in that section of the yard.
Second, the radon was coming from one nasty spot not easy to vent–a place in the cellar where a drain had been cut into the foundation. This is a thick walled cellar. By cellar, I do not mean a basement, I mean, a true cellar that’s underground with no windows.
Warning: photos of my old basement ahead.
An area where radon is coming in is a drain vent added there recently. It’s near a deep cellar. The heavy gas concentrated in the cellar–great for tornados, bad for radon.
Here’s the solution:
The next step is to test for radon using several meters throughout the house to make sure the gas is expelled and not re-entering. It can take a few days for radon level to drop. If we don’t get it below the level of 4 pCi/L we’ll need more tubes.
You might wonder if I can hear the radon fan. I’m not sure. I hear a fan when I’m next to the window closest to the fan. However, is it the refrigerator or the radon fan? I have radiators that make a gentle rumble. (In the summer, it will be next to the air conditioner.) If it makes a noise, its not a loud one.
One in fifteen homes in the United States tests high for radon and in Iowa, the ratio is seven out of ten–the highest in the nation! (However, some states such as Pennsylvania and South Dakota have higher average ratings. Click here for a map.) Even though I don’t spend much time in my basement, I’m glad to have done this.Going into the cellar always made me sneeze. I though it was mold but maybe it was the irritating radioactive gas. Now I can dodge tornados more safely.
According to Publishing Perspectives, 24% of people in the U.S. listened to an audiobook in the past year. Of these, 48% are under age 35 so this market is expected to remain strong. Roughly equal percent of men and women listen to audiobooks. Most people listen on their phones and believe it or not, the home is the most commonplace to listen followed by in the car and then on an airplane. If you want a fun, crazy book with science, romance, history, tonic, humor, and cute animals, this book is for you!
The book link for the paperback is hard to find on Amazon, so here it is.
You’ve no doubt heard of radon in basements. Where is radon prevent? Here is a radon map. The United States doesn’t have much radon compared to other countries. It’s common in many states, especially in the North. Iowa and North Dakota are the two totally Zone 1 states. That means that here in Iowa, it’s hard to avoid this odorless, colorless, harmful gas. It’s inside and out, concentrating in low lying areas and clinging to dust particles. Inside it can reach harmful concentrations and promote lung cancer.
What is radon? It’s a non-reactive element, in the same family as helium and neon. It hangs in the air as a solitary atom. It doesn’t like to form chemical bonds. The problem is, it’s the big cousin to those elements. It’s heavy. It would NOT float a balloon. Big elements, those with an atomic number of above 81, aren’t stable. They decay and toss off radioactive particles as they strip down to something lighter. And for radon, its light form is lead. So not only does it beat on your lungs with energetic particles as it decays, it goes through a series of forming dangerous atoms, and it’s not too nice when it settles down as a lead atom. Here it is on the periodic table, Rn, radon. There is also an Ra, radium–kind of confusing. Radium c is related to calcium. Radon, the one we are talking about, can be in water but exists as a gas. Because it is a gas, you breath it in. That’s a problem. Radon’s atomic number 86 so it’s a big one! (Carbon by example is 12.) But not so big that you can wear a particle mask and keep it away. It’s got a bad size. Where does it come from? Heavy atoms tend to be found further down in the ground and radon comes from uranium break down. Uranium has atomic number 92. It’s a solid and tends to stay where it’s put. It lets off the gas of radon. (And also helium.)
In retrospect, I wasted time waiting until the basement was done to get after the radon. I have decided that patience is over-rated! We put down radon sealant on our new floors and thought that would be enough but no, It worked in some rooms but not in others. In fact, by adding a drainage system and two sump pumps we probably made our radon worse.
Curious about radon your house? The first step in figuring out if you have radon is to do a short term test. In this test, the radon is collected on carbon, which can suck things in and get them to stick The small package of carbon sits in your home (basement in my case) for a few days is sent to a lab and measured. Want to buy one? Look up “radon test kit.” They aren’t expensive.
The next step–if your reading is high– is to call a radon specialist. This person will probably put some radon monitors in the lowest level the home to see where it is most concentrated.
No surprise. Ours was-concentrated in the root cellar/tornado shelter/bomb shelter. It was less so in other spots in the basement but the average level was too high.
One thing we had going for us–we don’t have any duct work in the basement. We kept our radiators. The duct work for the air conditioner is in the attic. This means were were not blowing the cellar radon around the entire house as can happen with radon. On the other hand, the radon in the basement wasn’t going to go anywhere without help. And we go down to the cellar during tornado scares and store things down there.
We signed a contract with a radon specialist to fix the problem. Then, we waited four months for the problem to be fixed. I think the radon specialist will be here Monday. I’ll keep you posted.
The takeaways from my experience are this:
Don’t wait to test for radon.
When you sign a contract to have it removed, have both a level of reduction AND a completion date specified. I had an oral agreement–or so I thought–to have the work completed in October. I hope that it will be worth the wait.