Keep North Carolina in North Carolina

“The Brain Drain: where all of the most educated and qualified leave and never come back”

– Emily Pilloton 

People leave and may not come back. Maybe someone thought a childhood was enough and decided to go out of state for college. Now what if that person ended up becoming the CEO of a large company, won a Nobel prize, or some other magnificent feat. It is true when they say you’ll always find your way back home but what if you no longer constitute where you grew up as home anymore?

Emily Pilloton arching goal is to transform the struggling public education system and buildings to a flourishing county for possibilities and change. While describing Project H, Pilloton mentions the Brain Drain: the phenomenon where many educated and qualified students leave the state and usually never return. A likely choice if there is a better offer somewhere else or the student had deemed the state’s resources scarce. However, some initiatives are beginning to take place in North Carolina to combat this problem and provide incentive for students to attend an in state institution and consequently find a job in North Carolina as well.

The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics is a statewide residential magnet high school for juniors and seniors. NCSSM has been ranked #12 on the best public high schools in America and #1 in North Carolina. The school offers a rigid, but very rewarding curriculum as exemplified by the college choices of the most recent graduate, the Class of 2016. The top 12 colleges attended by the graduates include Duke, Cornell, MIT, Yale, and Stanford.

However, the number of students choosing to go out of state for college have steadily been rising. To combat this, University of North Carolina System leaders want to offer free tuition to any graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Math who attend a North Carolina public university. This was initially in effect from 2004 to 2010 but was later ineffective starting in 2011 when the General Assembly removed that funding. It has been the years since that we have begun to see the rapid decline of students attending UNC universities, from more than 75% to about 60%.

According to Louis Bissette, the Chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, “That’s the cream of our crop here in North Carolina, and I think that’s a very important request of the legislature, and it’s not a lot of money. So I think that can make a real difference.” Pending General Assembly approval, the proposal would cost $1.5 million annually.

Furthermore, they would like to increase the number of degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, which is why NCSSM is such a valuable resource. A quarter of the Class of 2016 were National Merit finalists and the average math SAT score is 702.

The major concern with this plan seems to be the taxpayer expenses as well as the rising tuition costs for students at UNC system universities. With tuition expecting to rise up to 2%, the free tuition plan is currently at a roadblock until coming to final decision with the General Assembly.

Having attended this school myself, I can attest to what an investment this would be. I had peers that had met with President Obama on multiple occasions, won prestigious competitions such as Moody’s Mega Math Challenge and Intel Science Talent Search, and have started companies and non-profits from their dorm room. However, its these same students that receive better financial aid or scholarships elsewhere and decide to leave due to monetary reasons. The free tuition would prevent this problem and keep many brilliant minds from succumbing to this “brain drain”.

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One Response to Keep North Carolina in North Carolina

  1. kbuffett says:

    What an interesting post! I think the arguments you have raised are valid and should be seriously considered by UNC system schools. Although I did not attend NCSSM, I was able to go to Summer Ventures in Science and Mathematics back in 2012 and Governor’s School in 2013 – so I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of your classmates. My personal experience affirms the point you have made about this “brain drain:” out of the two summer programs (which are only available to NC residents), I can count the number of people who ended up at a UNC system school (and not on a full tuition scholarship) on two hands.

    With that being said, I absolutely agree with you: I think there needs to be some incentive to keep these students in the state for college. Considering the mean math SAT score across all of North Carolina’s public schools is sitting at a disappointing 504, the fact that NCSSM students alone are getting over 200 points higher than that (on average) really shows that our public universities should be doing anything in their power to keep them here after graduation. Even if UNC system schools were not able to offer full tuition benefits, I think there should be at least a guaranteed partial scholarship available for NCSSM students.

    Once, again – great post! This is absolutely a possibility that our university system should be heavily considering over the next couple of years.

    Liked by 1 person

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