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New Jersey’s ‘brain drain’ continues – will you be coming back?

Dan Kitwood Collection: Getty Images News
Dan Kitwood Collection: Getty Images News

I remember talking about this problem years ago, and the problem persists.
Our best and brightest prove yet again why they’re the brightest.

Because once they’ve gone to an out of state college, they stay away and don’t come back.
Why is that?

Because they know something we all know but, in many cases, are too complacent to do anything about.
The high cost of living, plus the abundance of opportunities outside of New Jersey makes wanting to come back out of the question.

According to a piece in the Inquirer:

New Jersey continues to be the state with the largest “brain drain” of college students, according to new national data that lawmakers say is evidence of a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

More than 30,000 New Jerseyans leave the state to attend college each year. Only California sees more residents go out of state for college, but almost as many out-of-state students choose a school in California.

In New Jersey, only a few thousand students enter the state for college.

“That’s disheartening,” said Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley (D., Salem), the chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.
“One, we’re losing the workforce; two, we’re losing all of those dollars that go along with that student,” she said.

To compete, legislators are trying to increase the capacities at the state’s (already full) colleges, increase the possibilities of transferring from two-year colleges, and create more jobs for those who have graduated.

In 2012, voters approved a bond referendum that, combined with other state funds, created a $1.3 billion pot for capital projects at the state’s colleges and universities. One goal of that bond act — sponsored in part by Kean and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) — was to support projects expanding the colleges’ capacities.

Concerns about brain drain go beyond schooling, Kean and Riley said, and ultimately becomes a workforce issue. Graduates often do not return home, instead staying near where they went to school.
“It becomes cyclical. If we lose that workforce, that potential workforce, then we’re going to lose employers,” Riley said. “And we won’t be able to attract [new] employers.”

However, Riley pointed to the recent budget battle as evidence of lawmakers’ limited options.
“There is not enough that we can do right now because we’re a state that [has] financial issues, so we can’t give more money to our institutions of higher education, which they need, dearly, to beef up,” Riley said.

Which goes back to the underfunded pension fund, and how to make up for its shortfall. So where to find the money to fund not only the pension issue but the need to be competitive with other states in retaining recent college grads?

One way or another, something’s got to give.

So think about it for a minute. Why would you want to come back to live in a state with limited employment opportunities when the cost of living out of state is much less? Couple that with more employment opportunities and the brain drain will continue.

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