- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

August 12

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on the economy in the state:

Like it or not, the number of jobs provided directly and indirectly by the coal industry is dropping in West Virginia. And while there may still be ups and downs, coal will never be the big job provider in West Virginia that it used to be.

West Virginia’s abundant natural resources made the state a haven for mining and manufacturing jobs during much of the 20th century, but ultimately those steel, glass and chemical manufacturing jobs disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared early in the century.

Even West Virginia’s current natural gas job boom, which is creating thousands of new drilling and construction jobs, will recede as facilities needed to carry the abundant Marcellus and Utica shale resources are eventually built, requiring fewer workers than needed during this period of expansion.

So what is the state to do?

Keep working to diversify the economy.

No one said economic development and diversification is easy, but the state’s citizens can’t let up.

It’s not up to just the state Department of Commerce or local chambers of commerce to promote economic development. Anyone with a pulse and an idea can take part.

That’s why the series of discussions sponsored by the West Virginia Center for Civic Life called is a good start.

“What’s Next, West Virginia?” is a series of conversations that will take place across the state designed to encourage talking, thinking, and actions based on West Virginians’ own ideas for building a more vibrant and diverse economy, according to the group’s website.

Too often in West Virginia, the attitude has been that economic development is someone else’s job. Too often, unemployed and underemployed people wait for a company to come in and build a factory and add a bunch of jobs to the economy, or give up and search for jobs out of state. Not enough consider that they can use their own skills and talents to create a job.

No one should confuse talking about economic diversification as an attack on existing industries. The state can and should work to diversify its economy, while supporting existing employers, too.

“The goal behind community dialogue is not merely to draw a crowd and fill a room with opinionated people,” the What’s Next West Virginia website says. “The purpose is much bigger and more powerful. When people talk together about common concerns, they take ownership of problems. They talk about what they can do, not just what others ought to do… . Communities in a democracy are healthier when citizens are doing the work of citizens.”

Upcoming workshops are Thursday in Buckhannon, Aug. 19 in Martinsburg, Aug. 21 in Beckley, and Sept. 3 in Charleston.




August 11

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on college students and finances:

In the next few weeks, thousands of high school graduates in our region will begin their journey into higher education.

Students are naturally worried about harder classes, making new friends and a whole new world of independence. But students and their families also need to make sure they give due consideration to all of the financial issues they will be facing.

There are many differences between high school and college, but one of the biggest is that in high school the state and county are basically footing the bill, and in college, the student pays much of his or her way. Some families have put aside savings for college, and scholarships will ease the load for some students.

But about seven in 10 graduates of four-year institutions graduated with some debt, and on average it was about $29,000, according to The Project on Student Debt. Just as importantly, many students will be having their first experiences with credit cards, and the many other optional expenses that often come with college life, from new clothes and computers to fraternity dues and spring break road trips.

So, students and their families need to go into the next few years with their eyes wide open.

That planning begins with understanding all of the real “school” costs — tuition, room and board, books and supplies, fees, equipment and furnishings and even travel, whether that means commuting costs or getting back home for the holidays.

Federal student loan programs provide great assistance to students and families with low-cost loans, but there are a number of different programs and each have different provisions. The one thing they have in common is that after college, the loans must be repaid. Students want to be sure they do not incur unnecessary debt, and understand when and how the loan payments will be made.

Experts recommend students develop a budget from the beginning on these costs and loans, with the understanding that tuition costs and fees are likely to go up from year to year and the cost of living almost certainly will go up.

Students then need to add to that budget a reasonable estimate of all their other living and discretionary expenses.

Once that budget is complete, students need to understand how they will track their spending, and how to handle basic banking and credit. Many a college budget has been busted by overdraft fees and mounting credit card debt.

Public schools are beginning to recognize that much more needs to be done to improve students’ financial literacy, but today, too many students are unprepared for all the money matters they much deal with in college.

Students and families need to make sure they are ready before the first day of class.



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