Ohio has increased its college attainment rates over time, but it has not improved its relative position among the states. This stability of rank is not found in all states. States such as Pennsylvania and Illinois have seen marked increases in their college attainment rates, both in absolute and relative terms, each improving by 15 places since 1980. Alternatively, certain Mountain and Southwestern states have seen their relative positions decline.
In absolute terms, Ohio is experiencing brain gain. Someone send a copy of this report to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). In relative terms, one could argue that Ohio is, indeed, suffering from brain drain.
Of course, the assumption is that talent is leaving high tax, Rust Belt Ohio in droves. I've yet to see any numbers that prove that this perception is reality. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, nothing has changed:
The proportion of individuals aged 25–54 with a BA who were born in Ohio but no longer reside in the state in 2010 is somewhat lower than the average exit rates of the rest the states—47.3 percent vs. 51.9 percent. (Educated people are quite mobile.) At the same time, only 29.8 percent of individuals with a BA who currently reside in Ohio were born in one of the other 49 states, Puerto Rico, or U.S. territories, compared to an average of 51.3 percent in the other states. It is not a brain drain story, per se. Instead, it is a lack of brain gain from outside the state. Now, this pattern is not limited to Ohio. In fact, it is common in states with low rates of population growth.
Emphasis added. States with low population growth are often tagged with the dreaded term of exodus. Everyone is fleeing the economic catastrophe. Gobs of cash are thrown about in an effort to retain talent. Policies are disconnected from data.
Ohio has a talent attraction problem. However, immigration to the state has bolstered college attainment rates. More from the Fed:
The bachelor’s degree (BA) attainment rate of individuals aged 25–34, not born in the United States but residing in Ohio in 2010 is substantially higher than the BA attainment rate of U.S. natives living in Ohio (46.9 percent vs. 28.2 percent). Foreign-born residents make up 6.5 percent of the 25–34 age group and 10.3 percent of those with a college degree in that group. In addition, foreign-born residents are particularly important in fields requiring academic backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As of 2010, they made up 21.3 percent of Ohio’s STEM workforce in the 25–34 cohort.
Simply put, Ohio needs to do a better job of enticing college graduates born in other states to move there. More immigration isn't the answer. Crying about retention doesn't help. (But it will get you funded or reelected.) Right now, the best thing going is return migration. Ask Youngstown.