Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Right Student Loan

One of the biggest financial investments you’ll ever make?  College.  One of the biggest financial risks you’ll ever take?  College debt. Make sure you find the right student loan that works for you.  Why?  Graduating from college with large amounts of debt doesn’t set you up for financial success—it sets you up for more debt.  Manage your loans the right way by making sound decisions.  Consider these four strategies as you pick the right student loan—and a manageable debt load.

1. Federal v. Private

First thing you need to do is decide whether you want federal loans, private loans, or a combination of both.

If you’re an undergraduate borrowing on your own, go for a federal loan.  Federal loans are generally safer than private loans—they’re less expensive and they have flexible repayment options.  You can also avoid defaulting on them, which will protect your credit score.

How do they work?  Put simply, the federal government pays the interest on federal subsidized loans, like the Stafford and Perkins loans.  The government may also pay the interest during certain periods of deferment. And, depending on your loan and career choice, you may qualify for a loan forgiveness program.

Why would you choose a private loan?  If your credit score is high—at least 740—and you have a co-signer, then some private loan options might work better for you than federal loans.

Compare fixed and variable rates—if you plan on paying off your loan longer than its term, some of those variable rates might be appealing to you.  The other thing to consider?  Loan fees.  Run a compare and contrast of your options.

Feeling unsure?  Contact your university’s loan office and ask to speak to a Financial Aid officer.

 

2. Loan Calculator

Use one.  These are especially helpful when you’re comparing and contrasting rates and fees for private and federal loans.

The Repayment Estimator on StudentLoans.gov is helpful because it tracks your monthly payment based on all the variables and types of loans involved.  Get a clear sense of what you’ll pay, how often, and for how long.

Make sure that your numbers are similar to the statement from your Financial Aid office.  If they’re not—ask.  Figure out why before you sign anything.

3. How much $$?

Decide how much you want to borrow—because that will be the amount you owe, plus interest, fees, and any other loan-related expenses.

Beware the variable interest rate, typically found in private loans.  Variable interest rates do as their name implies.  They change.  They increase over time.

Borrowing a lot of money from a private lender can work, even with a variable interest rate provided you know that you’ll have the resources to pay it back quickly—don’t let that interest rate vary too much.

 

Engineers are a Perfect Fit

If the 21st century had a signature buzzword, “smart” might be it. From smartphones to smart homes, everything is getting smarter and, in doing so, opening up a near-endless range of new possibilities. One of the most intriguing developments in the shift to all things smart? Smart cities. Here’s a closer look at the state of smart cities, along with why engineers are positioned to lead the smart city movement.

The 411 on Smart Cities

The global market for smart cities is projected to skyrocket to US$1.2 trillion by the year 2020, according to a report from Global Industry Analysts, Inc. The potential benefits of smart cities are many, including higher quality of life, more equitable opportunities for all; unparalleled social, environmental and economic growth; increased participation from smart citizens; massive consumption reductions in both energy and water; and enhanced interconnectivity, communication and response, including during natural and manmade calamities.

All of which begs the question: What, exactly, is a smart city? In setting out to answer this question, The Pew Charitable Trusts ultimately came up with the following conclusion: It depends on who you ask.

Brooks Rainwater of the National League of Cities told Pew, “The concept of a smart city is somewhat amorphous, but it’s focused on cities leading with technological innovation,” while Jesse Berst of the Smart Cities Council said, ““It’s just using digital technology to improve community life.” Kansas City’s innovation analyst Kate Garman summed it up as “a paradigm shift in the way we think.”

The Hindu Times, meanwhile, offers the following, more specific definition: “A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres.”

While the definition may be somewhat slippery, we can all agree that smart cities do share some common characteristics, with mobility and connectivity at their core. But these bedrocks of smart cities ultimately serve a higher purpose: the wellbeing of inhabitants.

In discussing smart city features which not only make our environments more efficient, but also safer, friendlier and cleaner, David Perry, Director of Development and International Affairs at Lille, France’s HEI: Hautes Etudes d’Ingénieur, told Masterstudies, “We need to find solutions to what 20th century urbanism has left out, that is urban life metabolism and the flows that connect us to nature. What we take in, what we give off — circular economies.”

Where Are the Smart Cities?

Smart cities may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but the truth is that they’re alive and well all over the world. When asked to name a few of the globe’s smart cities, Perry rolled off an impressive list: “To name just a few prominent examples which demonstrate the variety of Smart Cities worldwide, we could mention: Digital Greenwich and London, England; Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba in Brazil; Paris and Lille in France; Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar and Thessaloniki, Greece.” He continued, “There are many more. Barcelona, Amsterdam, Marrakech and others on all continents. Let’s not forget the great cities of Mumbai, Singapore and Jakarta or the cities of Mexico City and New York.

Future in Hurricane Disasters Prevention

An estimated 10,000 people die every year due to hurricanes and tropical storms. These major storms also cause millions of injuries and massive property destruction. But their effects don’t end there. Not only can hurricane winds, rain, and storm surge have both direct and indirect impacts on the ecosystems and agriculture, but they also take a catastrophic toll on the economy. In fact, economists predict the global toll may reach a staggering $10 trillion. Perhaps most alarmingly of all? Scientists say hurricanes will increase in both strength and frequency as the planet warms and sea levels rise.

The takeaway? With both short- and long-term solutions needed regarding hurricane preparedness and prevention, atmospheric science will take on an increasingly important role. Here’s a closer look at this vital field, why it matters, and one program leading the way in terms of educating the future’s hurricane disasters prevention experts.

What are Atmospheric Sciences?

NASA defines atmospheric science as “the study of the physics and chemistry of clouds, gases, and aerosols (airborne particles) that surround the planetary bodies of the solar system.” It comprises a number of specialties, including climatology; dynamic meteorology; cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry; atmospheric physics; aeronomy; and oceanography.

Graduates with degrees in atmospheric sciences can be found working in a broad range of environments, including for the government, private weather services, the media, commercial airlines, state governments, colleges and universities, public utility companies, consulting firms, and aircraft and instrument manufacturing companies across areas comprising field research, laboratory studies, and computer analysis and modeling.

Why Atmospheric Sciences Matter

Barring the opinions of climate change disbelievers, hard science tells us that climate change is not only very real, but it’s packing a wallop in the form of extreme and unprecedented weather.

Explains Dr. Antti Lauri, Programme Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Master’s Programme at Finland’s University of Helsinki, “Hurricanes get their energy from condensation of water vapor over warm tropical oceans. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases act to warm the atmosphere and the oceans. This leads to larger evaporation from the ocean and stronger condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere. Therefore, in suitable conditions, hurricanes can grow more intense, with stronger winds and more precipitation.”

As a result, there is a critical need for experts with a multidisciplinary education in atmospheric and earth system. And as knowledge continues to expand and as new regulations and directives are implemented, people who understand this complex issue from a scientific point of view will be tasked with navigating the challenges ahead.

What, specifically, can atmospheric studies do to mitigate hurricane disasters? Continues Lauri, “In the short term, the simplest way is to discourage building in areas most prone to hurricane disasters. It is of course also possible to adapt by building stronger structures, introducing new alarm systems based on more accurate scientific results about the forming and evolution of hurricanes, and ultimately by introducing climate engineering methods such as injecting cooling sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.”

As far as the long-term goal of preventing stronger and more threatening hurricanes from developing, Lauri calls for a strong decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, which can be achieved through strategies including the use of renewable sources in energy production and afforestation.