Thursday, July 01, 2010

War For Talent: Minnesota

When states play the brain drain game, they tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. Minnesota is no exception. Today's obsession is where high school graduates choose to go to college:

Between 2003 and 2008, 67,675 Minnesota high-school students chose to go out of state for their higher education. In that time, 36,218 out-of-state students enrolled in Minnesota schools. That out-migration vs. in-migration produced a net loss of 31,457. It appears we have a trade imbalance.

The anxiety stems from a freshly minted report from the Minnesota Private College Council, "Student Migration Trends: Minnesota’s Net Loss of College-Going High School Graduates". Why Minnesota and we should care:

As our society generally increases in its mobility, some students will decide to leave their home state to attend college. As a consequence, states need to pay close attention to the number leaving (and arriving). States that attract at least as many college enrollees from other states as they lose will be in a much better labor market position than states that ignore the phenomenon and tolerate out-migration of college-bound talent (Tornatzky, et. al., 2001).

If only for my own personal reference, I'll add the entire citation from the bibliography.

Tornatsky would seem to underwrite a lot of the talent management policy I've seen in Southern states such as Georgia. The main thrust is to keep local high school graduates instate. Again, the aim is talent retention and there is a lot of money pumped into these programs.

Minnesota does have a leak in its talent pool. The increasing demand for better educated workers is also a legitimate concern. The state's ability to overcome these challenges involves a lot more than the migration of high school graduates for purposes of post-secondary education.

Minnesota has attracted a lot of college grads (highest percentage in the Midwest) and thus has the lowest unemployment and the highest per capita income in the Midwest — and relatively high tax burden.

On the balance, Minnesota is a big winner in the brain drain game. Talent attracts more talent and cities such as Minneapolis have long sported some of the country's highest educational attainment rates.

But if I'm an advocate for private colleges in the state, then my main concern is enrollments at my member schools. I'd love for the taxpayers to pick up the tab for a marketing campaign aimed at Minnesota high school students. Pandering to the hysteria about brain drain is the perfect ploy to get residents to reach for their checkbooks.

1 comment:

Stephen Gross said...

Very interesting. Thankfully, I haven't much hysteria over this issue in the local press. Plenty of people send their kids to the Big State School (Univ of MN); plenty of others send their kids to Univ of WI (which has an agreement with MN to admit MN at in-state WI rates).

And yes... believe it or not, some people send their kids to... private school elsewhere! Who'da thunk it!? There are elite private schools in the Northeast!? People actually go there!? Yep, it can happen. And sometimes those people never move home. Sometimes those people do.

As long as Minnesota remains a great place to live (which it is!), and as long as employers offer great opportunities for people's careers to grow (which it does!), our population numbers will be ok.