Brain Drain

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Spazeboy comments on a proposal by Rep Tim O’Brien that would hope to keep graduates in the state by offering them “savings” incentive:

While I think this plan will do a lot to keep young college graduates in the state, I also think it will make it easier for more adults to go back to college. Surely they are planning to stay in the state, but may not be able to afford college along with all the other expenses of running a household–especially earning wages at a job that doesn’t require a degree. It sounds to me like O’Brien’s proposal would allow for CT residents to go to college and get better jobs, regardless whether the fickle youngsters decide to stay in the state.

There are a few problems I have with this. The first goes to the reason why graduates leave the state in the first place: it’s not because of the costs of an education, but because staying hurts more than leaving. How will the incentive address the question of in-state innovation at the environmental, cultural, social, and economic level? People would stay in CT if they had the opportunity, wouldn’t they, or if “place” convinced them to: re the cool factor?

Secondly, the incentive is weak in that it removes choice and “punishes” people for what may be a necessity. What if the field calls me to Arizona? If I leave the state, I’m pretty much in the same boat as now, having to pay my college costs, but if I stay, I may or may not be able to work at a particular level of income and impact. India may call anyway.

Thanks, Beau, for the heads up.

One response to “Brain Drain”

  1. Beau says:

    You’re right that it is unlikely to actually alleviate “brain drain” until enough opportunities requiring a brain created in state.

    I don’t know how many traditional students could take advantage of this plan, realistically. It’s obviously not the same as “free college for all CT high school grads” which I think is a worthy investment–but not necessarily in an environment where CT is the state educating people and NY and MA are the states hiring them. In that case, it’s a collective action problem, with bordering states and states with more and better opportunities or states with a high “cool factor” are able to reap the benefits while CT bears the costs.

    I think that Rep. O’Brien has found a good way to make lowering or eliminating the cost of a college education attractive to taxpayers. The ultimate goal (in my mind) is to eliminate cost as an obstacle for students, but the educational operation must get its funding from somewhere. By couching it in terms of an investment in the future of the state, I think his plan has a greater chance of success. The next step is to lift the 10 years restriction, or allow for some pro-rata repayment plans for grads who are willing to stick around, just not for 10 years.