Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"In-State Tuition" Takes on a Whole New Meaning?

Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle released a sketch of his education proposal yesterday. The most interesting and controversial aspect of the plan is to give free tuition to Iowa students who get a 23 or higher on their ACT, come from households that make less than $52,000 per year, have a 3.0 or higher GPA in high school and throughout college, and agree to live in Iowa for up to seven years after graduation. Nussle also is calling for an increase in teachers' pay and in increase in the tuition tax credit.

The big question, of course, is how such a proposal would be funded. I guess we'll have to wait and see for more details.

It seems to me that by giving making tuition free for some students, Nussle is attempting to kill two birds with one stone. First, Nussle is trying to increase the accessibility of higher education for low-income Iowans. But secondly, and probably more importantly for Nussle, he is trying to halt the supposed "brain drain" - where the best and brightest Iowa youngsters are leaving the state and heading to other Midwestern cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis. A Des Moines Register article out today bemoans the loss of 20-34 year olds from rural Iowa, based on just-released Census data. Nussle's plan targets that exact age group by granting high-performing students free tuition if they agree to stay in the state until they reach the ripe old age of 28 or 29. This makes sense; by that age, many graduates would have started a family and be well on their way to a successful career. Staying in Iowa would then be an attractive option, with Iowa's safe cities and good schools.

This is somewhat bothersome to me. This proposal is something close to paying graduates not to leave the state. Has it really come to that? But on the other hand, I understand that the state needs to be aggressive and compete for new workers or be left behind by an increasingly advanced and complex economy. Would it work? I don't know - but it is nice to see some new ideas and a fresh attempt at solving some of Iowa's biggest challenges.


Anonymous Jason said...

I can see it now: fresh grads turning down high-paying dream jobs in other states and hating Iowa for imprisoning them here. I'm not nesicarily opposed to it, but this plan seems awfully far-fetched and expensive.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

My question is, how would they make sure the person doesn't move? If said person moved after year 5, would they prorate the tuition or make the person pay it in full 9 years after entering school? Interesting idea though I must say.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Kyky said...

It seems sad that it has, indeed, come to paying students to stay in Iowa. Another thing to think about is that, many times, students (both poor and rich)from any state (be it Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado) tend to stay in state at a local community college or state school, and then remain in their home state because it is easier. It would seem that this phenomenon is more prevalent in Midwest states, but that's probably because these are the states with which I am most familiar.

It would be fascinating, if this passes, to see what effect such an inducement would actually have on Iowa students. How many students who would have otherwise gone out of state will stay, and what sort of 'sacrifice' (if any) would this require? How many would have stayed anyway, but are given extra incentive (is it a free education with little or no sacrifice in that case?) because of this bill? Interesting.

P.S. I use 'sacrifice' not in the pejorative 'Iowa is a bad place to live' sense, but in the 'how would my living standards be improved/diminished had I gone elsewhere and lived elsewhere?' sense.

7:39 PM  

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