Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2012

Laurels to this week’s announcement that East Spencer has won a $500,000 federal grant to upgrade housing for low- and moderate-income residents. Just as substandard housing leads to higher crime rates, health concerns and other problems, improving a neighborhood’s housing can be a catalyst for other positive changes – which is the idea behind the N.C. Catalyst Community Development Block Grants program. While there’s not enough money to help all of the 60 or so homeowners who applied for aid, the grant should improve life for several East Spencerhouseholds while boosting the surrounding community as well.

Dart to the results of a new Pew Research Center study of college student debt, which now weighs on a record number of U.S. households. Almost 20 percent of U.S. households were carrying college debt in 2010, according to the study. While it’s true that more Americans than ever are attending college, the rise in debt stems largely from economic factors. Tuition costs have risen, and the economic slump means that students and their families are finding it harder to pay out of pocket for college expenses. That’s especially true for those at the lower end of the earning scale. When measured as a percent of total household income, college debt was highest among the poorest 20 percent of households (less than $21,044 annually). As might be expected, college debt is also more extensive among younger people; about 40 percent of households headed by someone 35 or younger owe college debt. But the college debt increase also shows up among high earners who are more likely to choose higher cost private schools.

Laurels to National Coffee Day, which should create some buzz today as coffee lovers and purveyors hoist cups of their favorite brew in celebration (as if they needed an excuse). About 75 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee, according to the Natonal Coffee Association, and 54 percent of us consume it daily. All told, there are about 183 million coffee-drinking Americans, compared to 173.5 million tea sippers. The number of coffee consumers appears to be steadily increasing, based on the number of coffee shops springing up locally and around the nation. In all, there are now about 20,000 coffee shop businesses around the country. All that Joe also stirs up a bunch of Benjamins. Overall, the U.S. coffee industry has an economic impact of about $19 billion a year – a latte loot by any measure.