Monday, September 10, 2012

Brain Drain Wisconsin

Like every other state, Wisconsin has a brain drain crisis. Or does it? The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute digs into the data:

A study conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute showed 62 percent of respondents perceived a “brain drain” at UW, UW spokesperson David Giroux said. However, according to Giroux, that perception is falsely concluded, as the numbers from a UW Alumni study reports, debunking the notion of a brain drain.

“Simply put, eight out of 10 Wisconsin graduates stay [in Wisconsin],” Giroux said. “That is not the kind of brain drain people think. …We are holding on to a good proportion.”

This is becoming an annual refrain in Wisconsin. At stake is higher education funding. Why give tax dollars to universities if all the graduates are moving to Chicago or Minneapolis?

Tying funding to talent retention is foolish. In the same article, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin regurgitates Creative Class dogma and conflates retention with attraction. Soglin needs to justify his own expenditures, brain drain boondoggles. Voters aren't interested in non-local talent. Retention sells.

Higher education needs to make a better case to the people. Graduates will leave. That's a public good. Geographic mobility catalyzes economic growth. Wisconsin's problem is that there is too little outmigration. Inert communities will struggle. Individuals and families will suffer.

A college degree will a make a person more likely to leave Wisconsin. You want your high school graduates to stay? Put them to work before they go to college. Keep them away from higher education. That will fix your brain drain problem.

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