Ohio Economists: Scholarships likely to keep high achievers in-state

By: - May 17, 2023 4:50 am

College student on campus. Getty Images.

A majority of a panel of Ohio economists thinks the state could keep many of its most talented students at home if the state offered scholarships to students who graduate in the top 5% of their class, according to a survey published this week. 

In doing so, the economists are effectively siding with Gov. Mike DeWine in a dispute with the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives. DeWine, who is also a Republican, put $18 million a year in his proposed budget to fund scholarships for top students to attend Ohio universities, but the House stripped the money out in the budget it passed earlier this month. The House, Senate, and governor have to hammer out a spending plan by June 30.

As part of its monthly survey of Ohio economists, Scioto Analysis asked 17 economists if scholarships to attend Ohio universities for students in the top 5% of their class would combat brain drain. Thirteen said yes and the other four said they were uncertain.

In the comment section of the survey, some economists qualified their agreement, for example saying that there might be better approaches to keeping the best students here.

Research shows that getting students to attend college in a region leads to positive spillovers that stay in the region, but I don’t know if the payoff would be worth the cost,” wrote Jonathan Andreas of Bluffton University. “It would probably be more effective to spend the money on loan forgiveness for students to remain as Ohio residents after graduation, but that would be best announced in advance so it doesn’t just pay students who had already decided to stay in state without any additional incentive. Ideally, the loans should be sold to incoming students as grants that are only converted to loans if students leave the state to work within a set period of time.”

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that “college enrollment is strongly correlated with the number of postsecondary institutions within each state, as more populous and geographically large states have more institutional capacity to enroll more students.” And, with 75.6% of its students staying here for college, Ohio is in the top half of states by that measure, the group reports.

Statistics about where the best students land after college are tough to come by. But in 2019, Forbes reported on a survey finding that burdened with heavy student debt and other factors, half of millennials are literally returning home after college — to their parents’ house.

In the Scioto Analysis survey, economist Curtis Reynolds of Kent State said that financial considerations might dictate the behavior of top high school students as well. Many will go where the scholarship money is, he said.

“I am not sure how much this would actually keep high-performing students in state for college,” he wrote. “Out-of-state tuition is much higher so some will stay in state anyways, but these are all high-performing students who may get scholarships anyway. Furthermore, it is not clear that they would stay AFTER college.”



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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.