Monday, December 11, 2006

A bad Wisconsin Idea

Is it a good idea to offer free tuition to students who promise to stay in Wisconsin for ten years? I find the way in which the the members of a state commission studying the UW system's two year campuses have thrown in with this idea to be astonishing. It strikes me as ill-conceived. Won't it drive some of the best students out of state? Free tuition is a wonderful thing, but it pales in contrast to limiting your life options at 18. Those with larger ambitions are unlikely to bite and, given that the idea will almost certainly raise tuition for those who don't promise to stay put, may be more likely to go out of state.

The premise behind the idea that we lose business because our college graduates don't stay in the state seems flawed. I think it's far more likely that we lose our graduates because of a lack of opportunity here. Forcing those kids to stay will not create opportunitues.

I also suspect that the plan would be riven with enforcement problems. You can't forbid graduates from leaving. What you'd have to do is require them to sign an agreement to pay the state back if they leave. The state would have to chase departng grads around the country and take them to court. It could be done, but something about is just unseemly.

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