Friday, July 27, 2007

Brain drain: Rural states struggle to keep single, college-educated youth

Well-educated young people continue to emigrate from "a number of states in the Midwest, Great Plains and Northeast, taking high tax revenues and economic potential with them," reports

"To reverse the loss of such a valuable asset, states are trying solutions that veer from granting financial incentives to stay, to trying to create jobs to keep and attract new workers, to improving the quality of life for young people," Pauline Vu writes. "The problem for states is there's no sure-fire solution."

"There is an argument of what comes first — the businesses who hire the graduates, or the graduates who lure the businesses? I don't think the research on that is definitive," Dan Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, told Stateline.

"Maine will become the first state to give future college graduates a hefty tax credit to help pay back their student loans if they stay and work in the state. The incentive could amount to a yearly tax credit of just under $5,000 a year over the course of 10 years," Vu reports. Such programs "usually have been targeted at specific jobs such as doctors or math and science teachers or directed at rural areas," and several states recently rejected proposals for broader incentives.

Bruce Vandal, the director of post-secondary education and workforce development for the Education Commission of the States, told Vu that if jobs aren’t there for college graduates, "there’s no reason … they would stay, even with the financial incentives." Vu notes, "Many rural states have a natural disadvantage when it comes to a quality of life that appeals to the young." (Read more)

A Census Bureau report says that from 1995 to 2000, the states that lost the biggest percentage of single college graduates aged 25 to 39 were North Dakota, Iowa, South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana. The biggest gainers were Nevada, Colorado and Georgia, with Atlanta being a major national magnet.

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