About That Brain Drain…

Indiana has long suffered from “brain drain”–we have great universities that draw very bright students from around the country (and increasingly, the world), but we don’t keep many of them. In fact, the higher a student’s level of education, the more likely the student is to move away from the state after graduation.

Only about 16 percent of PhD recipients remain in Indiana’s workforce one year after graduation.

There are various reasons advanced for this situation; the nature of Indiana’s job market, the attractions of urban life (with few exceptions, Indiana is a pretty rural state), and the relative absence of other college graduates.

We aren’t the only state with this problem. Michigan, for example, is in a similar situation, and a Michigan legislator has proposed an interesting “fix.”

State Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, recently introduced SB 408, which offers a tax credit to recent college graduates who choose to stay and work in Michigan. This legislation will make it possible for talented young professionals to earn their livelihood in the state by easing the burden of student debt. The bill offers a tax credit to recent graduates who remain in state that lowers annual payments on student loans. 

Student loan debt is increasingly seen as a drag on economic growth, as well as a burden on the indebted individuals. A young person who has to divert a significant percentage of her disposable income to loan repayment isn’t buying a new stove or car or house.

I don’t know whether the numbers in Senator Anderson’s proposal are the right ones, and there may be downsides to his proposal that aren’t immediately apparent.

A tax credit might not be enough to keep graduates in Hoosier cornfields. But it’s an intriguing idea.


  1. The fact that our state legislature is considering the passage of HJR-6 does not help. I am one of the very few parents in my PFLAG chapter whose adult child has not left the state. Most of the extremely intelligent college-age LGBT children (and older) of our parents have left Indiana because they don’t feel welcome here. Micah Clark can say very glibly that this is not true, but the facts don’t lie. And I know many other established same-sex couples who have left the state for the same reason. I know this is only part of the reason for our brain-drain, but it certainly won’t help our situation if HJR-6 were to pass.

  2. The brain drain data bears witness to the fact that the legislature has not worked to establish conditions which welcome professionals, and as has been pointed out in a number of places, is anti-intellectual, and views teachers (for example) as just so much excess baggage that must be tolerated. (Just review some of the proposed and passed legislation from the past few years.) Ironically, this is a state whose universities have set high standards for professional programs, which makes it easy to obtain a license in other states where professionals will be welcomed, with quality of life and financial circumstances that exceed those found in Indiana. Nothing like finding a job in an Indiana community and then being ridiculed because one is educated. Like the famous Indiana author, George Ade, said, “A lot of smart young people have come out of Indiana. The smarter they are, the faster they come out”.

  3. When you have a state that’s run by morons, is it any wonder that people leave? Last time I heard, there’s no fence around the state.

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