The massive debt most people have to take on to attend college either discourages them from advancing their educations, or burdens them with debts that force them to make every life choice in terms of how it affects their ability to pay that debt. Start a business? No, have to make the debt payments. Buy a home? No, can’t pay a mortgage and the student loan debt. Start a family? Maybe not when you just bring debt to the marriage, and children are an unworkable expense when those debt payments have to be made.
At the same time, Minnesota’s economic growth lags the nation because of worker shortages.
It’s arguable whether we have an actual “brain drain”. That depends on the criteria, when a report came out, etc., but it’s inarguable that we aren’t retaining and attracting enough young adults to keep up, at the same time that young adults find their opportunities limited.
There’s a way to address both at the same time. I call it “Commit to Minnesota”.
Make post-secondary free: technical colleges, community colleges, universities. In exchange for getting their educations free, students must commit to living in the state five years after leaving school. If they leave the state earlier than five years after leaving school, then the cost of their educations turns into loans. After Minnesota invested in their educations, they’re going to stay in Minnesota and give us the benefit of that investment. If they leave even one day early, then they’re going to pay us back, every penny.
After living their first five years after school in Minnesota, they’ll likely at least have a job if not be on a career track they won’t want to give up. They may have gotten married, bought a home, even had children — after all, they aren’t weighed down by student loan payments. They’ll likely have higher incomes because of their educations, which means paying more in taxes.
And that’s how we fund the program.
This is a long-term investment. We will have to be patient enough to wait for the first people attending school under “Commit to Minnesota” to graduate, enter the workforce, get the higher wages their educations will get them, and pay more to the state in taxes than if they hadn’t gotten their educations — and of course more than if they had left the state after leaving school. Eventually, however, this program will become self-sustaining as the additional taxes cover the costs for the next students.
If you think Commit to Minnesota could work to make college affordable and stop or prevent any brain drain of young adults, then I ask for your support so I can get working on it.