Report measures 'brain drain' of Tennessee college graduates

Hank Hayes • Apr 16, 2007 at 10:21 AM

Within two years after graduation, about two-thirds of Tennessee's higher education graduates are working for employers who are part of the state's unemployment insurance system, according to a report released Monday by the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER).

The report said that about four-fifths of those graduates have jobs, while 5 percent to 6 percent of them stay in Tennessee attending a higher education institution after earning a degree.

"As time passes, fewer of Tennessee's graduates work in the state, but this trend is tempered by new graduates working in the state," the report said. "Students who were in-state students at the time of graduation are more likely to work in Tennessee than their out-of-state counterparts."

To paint this picture of Tennessee's higher education graduates - and see if there is a so-called "brain drain" going on in the state - CBER analyzed data from two sources: the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

"All states experience a loss of some graduates, but it seems likely that some states are experiencing a larger brain drain, exporting both top-level graduates and other educated people, than are others," the report said. "This brain drain can come after states' considerable investments in recruiting and training students."

The report noted that Tennessee's higher education institutions awarded just over 232,000 degrees to 207,600 people between 1997 and 2005. Almost 12 percent of the degrees - about 25,000 - were awarded to out-of-state students.

An overall picture of Tennessee graduates' wages contained these findings:

•In 2005, nearly 120,000 Tennessee higher education graduates working in the state earned more than $4.4 billion.

•Seven years after graduation, Tennessee's higher education graduates working full time in the state earned an average annual wage of $50,418.

•Students with out-of-state residency at graduation earned more on average than in-state students.

•Seven years after graduation, bachelor's degree holders are earning almost $7,000 more than associate's degree holders.

Tennessee's public higher education institutions - nine public universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers - currently enroll more than 284,000 students.

For more about the report go to http://cber.bus.utk.edu/.

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