Regardless of the occasional disparaging remark we hear about living in the Mountain State it is still one of the best places in the USA to live. Recent studies by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics show that the cost of living for all five of the areas surveyed in a recent study was 54 percent lower than the most expensive area in the U.S, Manhattan, N.Y., and six percent more expensive than Pryor, Okla., which was the least expensive urban area. Those W.Va. areas included in the study were Charleston, Harrison County, Martinsburg-Berkeley, Morgantown and Vienna, along with 313 other urban areas in the nation. According to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, Morgantown had the highest cost of living in the state with Martinsburg having the lowest.
Officials warned, however, that while the ACCRA COLI is a useful indicator of local economic conditions, it should be considered with caution. The survey measures the regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services but excludes taxes and non-consumer expenditures. Also, officials noted, the index is only estimated for a specific group of individuals. Local conditions and trends that an area is experiencing are also not part of this index and should be considered before concluding exactly what the relative cost of living information means.
Some other interesting statistics for our state showed up in the 2006 Results for Graduates of West Virginia Public Higher Education Institutions during the Past Decade using the Classification of Instructional Programs system provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
The areas of concentration with the largest number of graduates during the past 10 years are business, management, marketing and related degrees (17,797 graduates), education (16,885 graduates), health professions (15,504 graduates) and liberal arts (8,774 graduates). There were 1,294 graduates with law degrees during the decade and 2,603 graduates with professional health degrees.
The survey noted strong returns to education within some areas of concentration. For the engineering concentration, for example, associate's degree recipients earned $21,406, while graduates with a bachelor's degree earned $53,972. A similar pattern in the education concentration area was also noted.
Over 50 percent of female graduates were working in the state in 2006, compared to 40.9 percent of male graduates.
Of the 106,583 public higher education graduates in West Virginian during the past decade, 98,006 were Caucasian (92 percent), African-American graduated made up 3.6 percent, followed by Asian graduates with 3.2 percent, Hispanic graduates 0.9 percent, American-Indian 0.3 percent and other graduates 0.1 percent.
Some two years ago when the presidential election officially got under way, I said I'd try to keep those interested as up-to-date as possible on the cost of the election. Obviously, the final tally has yet to be made but the latest numbers provided by OpenSecrets.org bare out the pundits' forecast that the election would go well over the $1 billion mark - it did. According to OpenSecrets.org, the election cost, as near as can be tallied to date, $1.557 billion including $163.8 million for salaries and benefits, travel expenditures were approximately $139.7 million, postage/shipping $66.84 million and rent/utilities $53.8 million. These are but the four highest categories of the break-down of the costs of the election.
An Oct. 31 editorial in The New York Times stated that when specialists predicted that this would be the first billion-dollar presidential campaign the nation was shocked. Clearly, the editorial stated, the system must be fixed - and so it should.
Sens. John McCain and Barak Obama both pledged to update the public financing systems to keep spending in future elections within reasonable bounds. But wait a minute - hasn't every presidential candidate for as far back as we can remember said the same thing yet nothing is ever done to reduce the astronomical cost. This of course begs the question, will President-elect Obama really do anything about it. Probably not, and we will go through the same sky-rocketing campaign in 2012. We'll see.
The Department of Motor Vehicles has a surprise in store for those individuals applying for or renewing their driver's license beginning in Jan. 2009. West Virginia will join over 40 other states in requiring that all individuals pass a vision screening test.
Applicants have the option of undergoing vision screening at their local DMV office or providing a completed vision report form signed by a licensed optometrist. The DMV screening will involve reading lines of letters and/or numbers. To pass, applicants must have 20/40 eyesight in their best eye, with or without corrective lenses. DMV officials suggest that if an applicant has any doubts whatsoever about their vision, they should be seen by an eye care professional prior to making application with the DMV. Doing so could help avoid delays in processing and, for renewal customers, reduce the chance of your license expiring before it can be renewed.
Edward Sandford Martin said, "Thanksgiving Day comes, by statue, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow."
I hope everyone had a safe, enjoyable and Happy Thanksgiving. The season of joy and celebration is upon us; may everyone have a joyful, safe and fun-filled Christmas season.