With the release of a UW Alumni study, questions may have been put to rest about whether the state of Wisconsin can keep the graduates of its flagship university.
A study conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute showed 62 percent of respondents perceived a “brain drain” at UW, UW spokesperson David Giroux said. However, according to Giroux, that perception is falsely concluded, as the numbers from a UW Alumni study reports, debunking the notion of a brain drain.
“Simply put, eight out of 10 Wisconsin graduates stay [in Wisconsin],” Giroux said. “That is not the kind of brain drain people think. …We are holding on to a good proportion.”
According to the Alumni report, conducted by the Office of Policy Analysis and Research, 81 percent of graduates who were state residents upon arrival at the school remained in-state. The report said graduates with degrees in education and health care are more likely to stay in-state after graduation, with 76 percent of the former and 75 percent of the latter staying.
Giroux added a small percentage of out-of-state students also remain residents in Madison after graduation, which he finds to be a “good return on tax-payer dollars.”
According to the report, 13 percent of non-Wisconsin and non-Minnesota residents also stay in-state, with an overall 67 percent of all UW students staying post-graduation.
However, according to Mayor Paul Soglin, it is more important to look past the numbers and studies and continue encouraging youth to want to stay in the state.
“The problem is that we too often act defensively,” Soglin said in response to discussions on the brain drain. “What we have to do is create a work environment where our communities are attractive as well as focusing on the work place.”
According to Soglin, that denotes good public schools and cultural and recreational opportunities but excludes taxes.
Citing Epic Systems, a Madison company that attracts students from all over the country, Soglin said youth entering Madison do not hold low taxes as their priority, but rather focus more on their co-workers, the culture and recreational opportunities.
Soglin said Madison excels in that regard.
“Over the last 40 years Madison is one of the few cities that has grown in population,” Soglin said. “What is it that Madison has that attracts investment and workers? It goes back to cultural activities, recreational activities.”
According to Soglin, when it comes to encouraging more educated youth to stay in the state, public investment in infrastructure is key to attracting a knowledgeable community. He also noted the importance of a tolerant community in regard to gay rights. People want to be in communities that are accepting and diverse, he said.
To Soglin’s understanding, the higher the level of education they have attained, the more likely students will leave. With that, he finds that Madison needs to focus on the creation of jobs that are challenging and financially rewarding,
“A race to the bottom, in regards to salaries, is not going to help,” Soglin said. “Everyone is looking for the same thing. It’s a safe environment, it’s good schools. If they feel they can find it, that’s where they go.”
A Kiplinger study recently rated Madison the No. 1 city for young people.