It’s a myth that Wisconsin’s best and brightest leave the state for opportunities elsewhere.
That’s according to a report put out by the University of Wisconsin System, which shows 81 percent of alumni who were Wisconsin residents before enrolling stay in the state after graduating from a UW System institution. Overall — including non-residents — 67 percent of alumni remained in Wisconsin.
“The mantra here is, ‘Oh, we lose our best and brightest,’” said UW System President Kevin Reilly. “Not so, based on the facts.”
However, the state and university system could do a better job of attracting college graduates from other states, the report found.
Making the state more alluring to the college-educated will be the focus of a discussion at a meeting today of the UW Board of Regents, the university system’s governing board.
The issue was prompted by a perception that Wisconsin has a brain drain problem, Reilly said.
A poll conducted this summer by UW-Madison professor Ken Goldstein, commissioned by the conservative think tank Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, found 62 percent of Wisconsinites believe the best and brightest leave Wisconsin for work.
But the UW System analysis found there were no meaningful differences in academic performance between those who stayed in Wisconsin and those who left.
“The bottom line here is we do not have a brain drain problem,” Reilly said. “Where we have the problem is we don’t attract as many college educated people as we need to.”
According to the report, Wisconsin has a lower per capita income than other states — $37,623 compared to $39,626 nationally — and there needs to be more growth in engineering and other high-paying technical fields.
The numbers vary when looking at individual institutions and fields of study.
At UW-Madison, 69 percent of alumni who were Wisconsin residents as students remained in the state, the report shows, compared with 92 percent at UW-Milwaukee.
Graduates in education and health professions tend to remain in Wisconsin at higher rates than engineering graduates, according to the report.
The study was based on address information from UW System institutions for alumni who graduated between 2003 and 2005.