Public colleges and universities rely heavily on state funding in order to offer affordable classes to their student body. However, in some states, that same student body leaves after graduation, essentially causing the public system of higher education to invest in the workforce for other states. The reasons for this are complex and surprising; it certainly requires more than a quick fix.
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It makes intuitive sense that a state with high unemployment would lose its graduates upon completion of their education. But according to PayScale’s data, California currently has an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, which is high compared to other states. Still 86 percent of their public graduates stay in the state. One hypothesis is that unemployment is higher among the less educated, and more jobs requiring an education are hiring.
On the other hand, Vermont’s unemployment rate is charted at a relatively low 4.2 percent, but only 37 percent of its graduates stay in Vermont to embark on their careers. One might hypothesize that people leaving because they can’t find jobs keeps the actual unemployment rate low.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Including public college and university ROI in this picture adds another dimension and encourages more questions, if not answers.
The University of California’s ROI is over $350,000. The University of Vermont’s ROI is under $170,000. Vermont’s cost of living and, therefore, salary ranges are lower than California’s; however, if the students are leaving the state and getting jobs elsewhere, they would, theoretically, be offered higher salaries in places with higher costs of living. Depending upon what variables are considered, this could affect their ROI.
Cost of an Education
Attending one year as an undergraduate of the University of California costs about $30,000 for California residents, and about $50,000 for non-residents. Attending one year as an undergraduate of the University of Vermont costs about $15,000 for Vermont residents, and about $25,000 for non-residents. Theoretically, it should be easier for Vermont graduates to enjoy a higher ROI than California. However, this may have to do with where the Vermont graduates move.
Putting it All Together
Research often leaves us with more questions than answers, and this is not a bad thing. One research study enlightens us as to the next important question to ask so we can eventually find answers and improve our situation. When we compare these two different states, California and Vermont, we may come to the cautious conclusion that staying in California results in higher ROI for her graduates, but in Vermont that incentive is not present.
More research is necessary to come to a full understanding of the dynamics surrounding why students stay or leave, and what state governments may do to encourage keeping the talents and skills of graduates in-state.
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