More college students choose Indiana, but will they stay afterward?

Topic: Miller College of Business

July 14, 2011

Indiana is attracting fewer college-educated people between the ages of 25 and 64 than it needs to build a strong economy, but at the same time, more young people are migrating into the state to attend college, says a new Ball State University report.

"Educational Attainment in Indiana" from Ball State's Center for Business and Educational Research (CBER) finds that of the 487,000 working age people that migrated into the state from 2006-09, about 20 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. Over the same time period, 73,000 people moved out of Indiana, with 37 percent possessing a bachelor's degree.

"Migration patterns suggest that the state is attracting less educated people, which has serious ramifications for economic development," said Dagney Faulk, research director for CBER, a division of the Miller College of Business.

"Recent stories in the news media suggest that manufacturing establishments are experiencing shortages in skilled workers," she added. "Workers migrating into the state don't appear to be helping this situation."

On a positive note, Faulk said Indiana's reputation for high quality college, and universities may be a factor not only in increasing the number of Hoosiers seeking bachelor's degrees but also for attracting out-of-state young people.

The net migration of students into Indiana was 8,382 in 2008, indicating that more students are coming to attend college than leaving. Indiana is ranked second behind Pennsylvania in net migration. New Jersey ranked last in 2008 with 28,000 migrating out of state to attend college.

"Indiana has a strong reputation for its public and private colleges, and we have lower tuition costs than many surrounding states," Faulk said. "High quality programs draw students from other states and countries. These students contribute to the diversity of the student bodies on campuses across the state."

Indiana has long battled "brain drain" as many well-educated Hoosiers move out of state seeking new opportunities. About 20 percent of Indiana residents have a bachelor's degree. All the while the state is ranked in the top third of states in the nation in conferring degrees.

Faulk said 15 to 20 percent of Indiana's recent college graduates have left the state for opportunities elsewhere, with Chicago being the primary destination for many.

She also pointed out that the growing number of Hoosier ninth-graders who go on to college and the increasing share of students who complete a baccalaureate in six years suggest that the proportion of Indiana's population with a bachelor's degree is likely to increase over the next few years.

"The modern job market necessitates this change," Faulk said. "If Indiana is to build a strong economy, it must increase the number of people possessing a bachelor's degree or advanced degrees."

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