Wisconsin Brain Drain
Posted: May 4, 2007
Most of us in the business community should know the phrase "Wisconsin Brain Drain". For those who are not up to speed, the slogan is representative of the disappointing situation that results in a declining number of Wisconsin high school and college graduates who end up living and working in some other state.
I have met too many intelligent, clever and well-spoken local university students who accepted a job with a company outside of Wisconsin upon graduation. I could be wrong, but I remember socializing with many UWEC students years ago who were mostly natives of the immediate area. Now, it seems that many more college students are from locales far away from Wisconsin. If I am correct, then this is great for the enhanced diversity of the community. But Wisconsin needs to find a way to keep the best and brightest here, regardless of where they grew up.
Governor Jim Doyle last year unveiled a broad educational initiative called, "Wisconsin Covenant". The innovative proposal would be open to any 8th grade student that has some level of financial need. Students must sign an agreement to maintain a "B" average in high school, complete a specific core curriculum and apply for state and federal financial aid. In exchange, the state will guarantee a spot in one of its universities or technical colleges and a combination of work study, loans and scholarships help pay the students' tuition. The program is similar to those in Indiana, Oklahoma and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Nobody knows how much "Wisconsin Covenant" will cost. Although Governor Doyle has earmarked $10 million a year in financial aid, there are no estimates as to how many 8th graders will enroll in the program. But even after I researched the governor's proposal and attempted to poke holes in the concept, I have to admit that "Wisconsin Covenant" has the makings of becoming a breakthrough way for the state to encourage young adults to start thinking about secondary education before they get to high school.
Many of the most talented young business professionals are leaving Wisconsin for greener pastures. However, maybe with the proper incentives planted at an earlier age, the state's "Brain Drain" may result in a "Brain Gain".
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