Mr. Observer’s gotta


The Cost of a College Education is Growing

             This is my first year attending a postsecondary education institution. I started a little later in life than most of those who begin their college careers. For me, this meant assessing the whole situation from academic, as well as economic standpoints. Thus not only choosing a degree, but exploring how to pay for it. This is where I stumbled upon a frightening realization: the cost of higher education in the United States is rising with no end in sight.

            I know that most people realize that the cost of just about everything goes up every year. The cost of gasoline (for example) was about eighty cents per gallon when I started driving years ago. So yes, inflation is a constant in the world of economics, and currently our inflation rate in the United States is around four percent each year. So, what is the cost of a college education today?

            According to The College Board, a not-for-profit academic organization, the average cost to attend a public 2-year college is $2,544 per academic year (2009-10 College Prices). This is up over seven percent from just last year alone. The average for a public 4-year school is $7,020, up 6.5%. And to attend a private 4-year university is up 4.4% to $26,273. Just looking at the inflation of tuition from one year to the next is startling when you calculate the projected costs. For example, using the same increased percentage for a public 4-year college (6.5%), in just ten short years the cost breaches over thirteen thousand dollars per academic year. That’s almost double the amount in a decade. When the tuition increase is greater than the rate of inflation (by almost double in some cases), what are the possible problems America might face if most of its citizens can’t afford to attend college?

            To start, let’s realize that a household run by college-educated individuals will on average earn over 1.5 million dollars more over their entire career than those with only a high school diploma (Hansen). That spells out simple economics; they are clearly stronger candidates as consumers, thus keeping our capitalist society running strong. So it’s easy to see that education isn’t only essential for personal enrichment on a variety of levels, it’s also vital to our economy. And with our world becoming ever more interconnected, these implications become global. With the cost of tuition slowly becoming out of reach for many low-income and middle-class households, we might understand how it can be cause for an economic shutdown for our children and beyond. My goal was to figure out some reasons for the consistent hike in tuition.

              One probably more recognized reason for tuition hikes involve state funding. State funding plays a huge role in helping to maintain our educational infrastructure for not-for-profit universities and colleges. A state-wide budget cut in education across the board ultimately creates higher costs for a student to attend college. An excerpt from the Your Money section of The New York Times shared why else college tuition continues to rise, even in a down economy. “In some ways, higher education is more like a political environment (rather) than the management of a private corporation,” Mr. Weiss said. Except that thanks to tenure, it is difficult to vote anyone out of office. Still, he added, “Alienating some of your faculty members, if you can avoid it, is something you shouldn’t be doing” (Leiber). This basically means that tenured faculty is in a way grandfathered into the payroll. Not only are faculty protected almost without regard to whether or not their curriculum is important to the global stage awaiting our future leaders, but there are other costs that are frivolous as a result. “Fine arts has studio-based production, so capital and facility costs are high,” said Jane Wellman, executive director of the nonprofit group Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability, speaking of colleges in general. “Piano tutoring is pretty much one to one in a room with a piano. Pianos are expensive. Agriculture is expensive because of the lab costs, which means a barn” (Lieber).  I’m not at all suggesting that there is one or only a few simple ways to untangle something that is literally decades in the making, but what are some little things that we might do to help shore up a potentially serious problem?    

             One suggestion I might make is that the professors which on average “teach five classes a year over two semesters and work with students on their independent research projects”—Lieber, teach one extra class and maybe less research. It shouldn’t be too much to ask considering there being a boom in people registering for college due to current economic downturn. Another might be stepping into the twenty first century and adopting more on-line availability for basic courses which would reduce the need for the brick and mortar, as well as allow more students to select that course for the semester. This isn’t a crazy idea either; some schools are already implementing them, like The Art Institutes of America, for example. What’s that? “Not everyone has access to the internet”, you say?  Well, I’d understand that not everyone would want to go through their class online, and this would be an option ultimately. But I’d bet they might afford the means via the decrease in tuition costs should they be interested.

                 Though it’s not clear exactly how to remedy this very important issue, the fact that it requires focused attention is. As the rich become richer, the poor become poorer and the middle-class is slowly disappearing, we better do something. Otherwise, like the great Roman Empire, our storied civilization will eventually fall.

Works Cited

Hansen, Katherine. What Good is a College Education Anyway? 21 Nov. 2009 <


Lieber, Ron. Why College Costs Rise, Even in a Recession. 4 Sept.

      2009. The New York Times. 21 Nov. 2009 <


2009-10 College Prices: Keep Increases in Perspective. The College

       Board. 11 Nov. 2009 <


January 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Take Two of These and Call Me in the Morning


      For thousands of years, people from every corner of the Earth have used Marijuana. Centuries ago it was part of many forming religions from Buddhism to Hinduism. Conversely, marijuana has also been at the proverbial root of many judicial and social problems of America since its prohibition propaganda of the 1930’s. Should marijuana be legalized? Or, should we nip this in the bud and put it out for good?

      If you’ve been paying attention to the media, you’ll have heard about legalizing marijuana. In fact, there have been thirteen total states to pass laws on legal medical marijuana as of late: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, with many more on the way. These states passed legislation on the grounds that marijuana has many useful medicinal purposes. Though President Obama’s drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said, “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medical benefit” (Gillespie). From the “Health” section of MSNBC’s online publication, “THC is also more effective at blocking clumps of protein that can inhibit memory and cognition in Alzheimer’s patients…” (Bazell). Another use for marijuana has been found in an article from the National Cancer Institute, “There has been much interest in the use of marijuana to treat a number of medical problems, including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients” (Marijuana use in supportive care). The list goes on. With there being some suggested benefits for the suffering, does that mean it’s good for everyone?

      Through the years there have been many attempts to persuade Americans to “just say no”. If you were alive in the eighties, you might remember the commercials that reminded us what our brain looked like on drugs (eggs frying in a pan). However there are real consequences to consider when deciding to smoke the herb. “In men, marijuana causes decreased serum testosterone levels, sperm count, and sperm motility. This may lead to decreased libido (interest in sex) and impotence. An increased risk of infertility may result from changes in semen characteristics seen with marijuana smoking. In women, chronic pot use causes shorter menstrual cycles and increased prolactin levels which may impair fertility.” says Dr. Sharon Orrange, a physician mastering in Health Sciences from Johns Hopkins University. (Orrange) So if it’s clear that it’s good for some and not for others, why might it be such a popular topic in the United States? 

      One popular justification for legalization is for its economic potential as a cash crop. “Pot is, after all, California’s biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state’s second largest agricultural commodity — milk and cream — which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics. The state’s tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget” says Democratic state assemblyman, Tom Ammiano. (Stateman) It’s not unheard of for the rest of the U.S. to catch up to the west coast tendencies, as stated by Mr. Ammiano, “How California goes, the country goes.” So is it about following the trends?

      A large number of worried people consider how much easier it might be for America’s youth to get their hands on marijuana. Some even speculate that marijuana can lead to the use of other more harmful and addictive drugs. “A large body of evidence does suggest that marijuana use appears to be the best predictor of later use of ‘harder drugs’ like cocaine or heroin. Marijuana use also predicts later ecstasy use. My personal experience as a physician has mirrored this and my patients who use hard drugs did start with pot.” says Dr. Orrange. (Orrange) The “gateway drug” theory is a common approach in drug prevention and this understanding is suggested to help to save lives. Though there are some who argue that it is easy to suggest that marijuana is a “gateway drug” when it is the most popular illegal drug in the United States. Congressman Steven Cohen of Tennessee drilled F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller in May of 2009 on this theory:

Mueller: “Uh, I think there have been some success…”
Cohen: “You say some success. Do you have any statistics for those successes? The statistics I have show there are more people smoking marijuana.”
Mueller: “All I can say is ask the parents of a child that has died from drugs.”
Cohen: “Show me the parents of a child that had died from marijuana.”
Mueller: “I can’t”
Cohen: “That’s right – because that hasn’t happened…the gateway theory doesn’t work.” (Perri).

      No matter what your decision is on whether to, or not to legalize marijuana, the bottom-line is it’s ultimately going to come down to a personal choice. In a world where there seems to be conflicting reason on both sides of the aisle, you have to ask yourself what you believe and why.

Works Cited

Bazel, Robert. “Marijuana may help stave Alzheimer’s.” 10 Oct 2006.

     NBC. 05 Nov 2009 <;

Gillespie, Nick. “’Legalization is not in the presidents vocabulary…Marijuana is        

     dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,’ Love, Obama’s Drug Czar.” 23   

     July 2009. Reason Magazine. 06 Nov 2009 <


“Marijuana use in supportive care for cancer patients.” 12 Dec 2000. U.S.

     National Institute of Health. 05 Nov 2009 <


Orrange, Sharon. “Is smoking pot really bad for you?” 27 Jan 2009.

     HSW International. 06 Nov 2009 <


Perri, John. “FBI director gets schooled on marijuana.” 21 May 2009. SSDP. 07   

     Nov 2009 http:///

Stateman, Alison. “Can marijuana help rescue California’s economy?” 13

     March 2009. Time Magazine. 07 Nov 2009 <,


January 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Music says something about who’s listening.

     Every time I’m in the car with my girlfriend, we’re faced with picking what to listen to on the radio. We have satellite radio which gives way to lots and lots of commercial free listening satisfaction. There’s only one real issue. She prefers the typical radio-friendly pop music like Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake and so on; whereas I was raised on the thick and masterful progressive rock music of yesteryear and now like Pink Floyd and Tool. So the questions might be: what is progressive rock music, where did it come from, where is it going, and how am I affected?

     The whole idea of progressive rock music was spawned in the 1960’s. Mostly British groups like The Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd were experimenting with a way to sort of push the envelope of artistic impression in what music could be as opposed to the normal song structure found not only then, but now. What is it that this new style of music does that makes it so different?

     Instead of following a basic verse-chorus-verse song structure along with an elementary 4/4 time signature (numerator is the number of beats per measure or melody; denominator is how many times the measure is repeated), progressive or “prog” takes a note from jazz music composition and song structures. This means that prog is almost unpredictable in essence. Not only can it possess seemingly chaotic time signature rhythms and rhythm-changes that will keep you on your toes while trying to follow along, but it will also take you on a little journey through sound and expression. Unlike basic time signature rhythms found in radio music, prog musicians know that when you incorporate jazz influenced time signatures like 5/4, 7/8, 10, 11 and so on, you’re free to create this ethereal world of sound. This sort of soundscape can alter our perception of time. This alteration in our perceived amount of time can be a good thing when these songs last anywhere from six minutes to more than thirty, whereas most radio songs are three to three and a half minutes of play time. Now, you may wonder: if this is the greatest thing to happen to rock music since the electric guitar, why isn’t it more popular?

     Though radio music is pretty basic in its composition, it’s therefore easier for the listener to “get” and internalize. Most of the music you might hear will cover topics that are clear to the listener to understand and relate to like love and relationships. Also, with the rhythms being quite predictable we know when the melody change will take place and we can bob our heads almost without thinking about it. Conversely, prog offers up a more time-consuming listening experience. This also allows some personal interpretation of what the song or story is about, causing us to think of it more subjectively. Because prog songs are usually longer and use different rhythms due to their time signatures, many times there is more sound for the listener to digest. With more sound to digest, it’s very common for the listener to make new discoveries on what takes place within the song each time they listen to it. This is usually more of an enticing prospect for those with the up-bringing (like me), the musical experience and therefore appreciation, or the basic curiosity needed to learn about prog music. However, the results suggest that the majority just doesn’t want to lend an ear in effort to enjoy music. Most just want it quick and easy. If this is the case, where will prog have to go to become more recognized in the world of radio-friendly music? Can prog, well, progress?

     One interesting thing about what is being done to indoctrinate the whole prog-style is that a lot of the bands of late have a deep admiration for the prog approach of years past. Because of this, many groups implement some of those prog characteristics into what they release on records today. Bands like Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Coheed and Cambria, Incubus, and The Mars Volta write radio-friendly songs that promote their new albums and have a great deal of prog rock attached. This is almost the only way to keep this genre alive it seems since when you actually buy a cd these days, you’re more likely to listen to all of it…therefore you’ve been exposed. But don’t worry, it’s not some sinister plan to make you like a certain music style, or unconsciously get you to visit certain bands’ concerts or websites.

     Just remember that a good amount of the musicians today that earn a living doing so aren’t all prefabricated, bubble-gum, commercial performers. Some are real musicians that study their craft and evolve it by knowing that it can only be done when you play and progressively explore sound.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment