Our view: Give us a reason to stay here

Just call it an Ohio epidemic. Students attend one of Ohio’s many higher education institutions, get a degree and go – with no looking back on the Buckeye state.

Actually, it’s called Ohio’s “brain drain,” a term coined to describe the disproportionate balance of degree-holders leaving and coming into the state. But epidemic is more appropriate.

More than 30 percent of all Ohio graduates had left the state within three years of graduating as of 2006, according to data from the Ohio Board of Regents. The statistics are worse for bachelor’s and graduate or professional degree-holders – about 63 percent and 56 percent, respectively, had left the state within the same time frame.

That’s why the Ohio Senate recently unveiled a measure aimed at fixing this problem. Senate Bill No. 5 would offer a lucky 300 college graduates a grant toward buying their first home in Ohio.

The catch? There is none, except of course if the bill doesn’t pass.

Introduced as a lottery, the bill would allow students who graduated from Ohio colleges or former Ohio high school students who attended out-of-state colleges to apply for the grant within 60 days of graduating. Then, a lottery would determine the 300 grant recipients, eligible to receive between $2,500 and $10,000 depending on level of degree completion. The winners would have a year to use the grant toward the purchase of their first home.

The bill is waiting for Senate and then House approval before it can be sent to Gov. Ted Strickland for the final signature – a process that could take upwards of two years.

We think it’s worth the wait. This bill, introduced by Sen. Steve Buehrer, R-Delta, has the ability to improve multiple facets of Ohio: the workforce, the housing market, and ultimately, individual communities. It’s a simple scenario of cause and effect.

By giving graduates an incentive to stay in Ohio, the state’s workforce will automatically improve given the influx of educated people applying for and accepting jobs. At the same time, more Ohioans will – we hope – become responsible homeowners, improving real estate and communities along the way.

Ohio legislators should take a look at the big picture before making any rash decisions about this proposed bill. Of course, it poses an added cost to the state’s budget, but it’s one that will eventually repay itself.

The Board of Regents, the governing body for state higher education, wants 70 percent of Ohio college graduates to stay in the state by 2017. This is one way to achieve that goal.

Plus, it’s great for young adults entering the working world and perfectly suited for those graduates sick and tired of rental or dorm life.

Ohio may not be a tropical oasis or filled with thriving metropolises, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean Ohio’s not a good place to start the next phase of your life.

Ohio’s revitalization depends on small, smart initiatives like this to take root. Graduates won’t flock to or stay in Ohio if they don’t have a reason to do so. Instead, they’ll pack their bags and tote their money and brainpower elsewhere.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.