Many students who graduate from top Ohio universities and colleges don’t stay. Lawmakers want to change that with tax breaks and scholarships.
The problem is clear. Depending on the university, between 10 and 40% of graduates leave the state to work and live elsewhere. They withdraw their powers and their income from the state.
And in the coming years, Ohio’s high school graduate population is expected to decline by 11%. If Ohio doesn’t keep more of its current college population and attract new students, the state’s population and income base will shrink.
State Representative Jon Cross, R-Kenton, proposed several solutions in a bill introduced on Monday.
First, graduates who work in Ohio could waive income tax for three years. It’s not yet clear how much it would cost the state, but Cross and college presidents say it’s worth it to retain talent.
“I’m sure it will be big,” Cross said of the lost tax revenue. “I bet you we’re losing a lot of money right now that is more than how much money we would offer.”
Increasing the number of Ohioans with a college education could generate $ 500 million in annual income and reduce the use of social service programs, said Ohio State University president Kristina Johnson. “This is important and catalytic legislation.
Another proposal would offer $ 25,000 to 100 out-of-state students seeking science, technology, engineering and math degrees if they are in the top 5% in their class. The money would be a forgivable loan if they stayed in Ohio after graduation.
Another idea would help Ohio employers get a refundable credit of 30% of wages paid for internships, apprenticeships and student co-ops. This prompts companies to train future talent who could stay in the state.
The bill would also increase the Ohio College Opportunity Grant money for students with an associate’s degree seeking a four-year degree.
Cross announced the bill Monday morning at a press conference alongside several Ohio university presidents. University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto said he would compare the talent of Ohio students to that of anyone in the country.
“The challenge is to hold them back,” he said. “Often times we educate these brilliant minds and they leave our state because there are opportunities that they see as beneficial at this point in their careers.”
Ohio isn’t the only state to offer incentives to retain students. Oklahoma has offered tax credits to some students. Kansas reimburses student loans for those who move to rural areas.
“I’ve been in higher education for over 30 years, working in six states, including California and Kansas,” said University of Akron president Gary Miller. “I don’t know if I have seen such directly innovative legislation towards higher education.”
Some college graduates say they are leaving Ohio, not because of a lack of jobs, but because of GOP policies passed by lawmakers like Cross. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has presented the LGBTQ protections, which have not been adopted, as an issue of retention in employment and in the company.
The state has done little to fight gun control, has enacted several abortion restrictions, and has no statewide protection for LGBTQ people in Ohio.
But Cross said lawmakers from Texas to California were making decisions on partisan issues that could affect their state’s reputation in the eyes of students.
“I can tell you that these two legislatures are also fighting over very difficult partisan issues. It’s everywhere.”
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch, and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Brain Drain: Ohio Bill Would Offer Incentives To Keep Students In State