Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Brain Drain Report: Wisconsin

The battle over brain drain is heating up in Wisconsin. Severe state budget constraints put the issue into focus. Some leaders want to pursue the talent dividend. Others wonder how Wisconsin can afford to pursue this goal:

Wisconsin has done a good job up until now. It already beats national averages by graduating 65 percent of students within six years. Reilly would like to increase the percentage of Wisconsin adults with degrees from 34 percent to 50 percent.

That touches on the concept of "brain drain," wherein young people from Wisconsin communities go to college, get a degree then move to where the jobs are -- and it's not Wisconsin. Some communities in Wisconsin, including Wisconsin Rapids, market their work forces as skilled, educated and ready to work. Many of these employees lost jobs due to plant closings and downsizing. With roots already in the community, it's more difficult for them to pick up and leave in search of a job.

Boiling it down, why pay more in taxes to help someone graduate who will leave the state? Investing for a talent dividend exacerbates outmigration. I'm sure Chicago appreciates the subsidy.

The debate gets more bizarre. Politicians are floating the idea of a student loan tax credit:

“During my career as a college professor, I’ve seen many bright students from around the country, and even from around the world, who have come to Wisconsin to get a first rate education,” Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater, said at the hearing. “However, according to several studies, Wisconsin is losing many of these qualified graduates to other states.”

Hixson said he believes the bill can help keep students in Wisconsin and combat the so-called “brain drain” — from 1989-2007, Wisconsin has ranked among the 10 worst states in net migration of people holding a bachelor’s degree.

By keeping more graduates in the state, Hixson added, Wisconsin will increase its highly trained workforce, which can also spur economic growth. The tax credit would also help to make higher education more affordable for students.

Great idea, except:

Paul Gabriel, executive director of the Wisconsin Technical Colleges District Boards Association, said the organization is supportive of any bill that would help make college more affordable for students. Students from technical colleges typically tend to stay in Wisconsin, however, so the ”brain drain” is not as much of an issue for them.

I see. Wisconsin would be offering financial assistance to graduates who tend stay instate. During a budget crisis.

Wisconsin's workforce development strategy is completely incoherent. The state could forgo the costs of improving college graduation rates in order to afford the student loan tax credit. The lunatics are running the asylum.

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