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Should I stay or go? College students talk about making Ohio home or leaving the state

Published By Canton Repository on February 13, 2022
Jon Cross In The News

Dayonna Simmons has already made up her mind to leave Ohio.

The 18-year-old Malone University freshman who is studying to become a clinical social worker is headed to Texas after graduation.

"The job I want, the starting salary is higher there than it is here," she said during a recent interview on the campus of the Christian university in Canton. "Plus, the weather is more sustainable."

A Cleveland native, Simmons has an older sister who plans to move to Pittsburgh, and an uncle who moved to Los Angeles. In her mind, there's not much Ohio can do to keep her.

"The only reason I'm here now is because I was born here," she said.

Why are young adults leaving Ohio?

While no state ever retains all of its college graduates, the exodus of educated young adults from Ohio has become worrisome — especially in a state where more people died than were born last year. It's the first time that's happened since Ohio started keeping such records in 1909.

Despite a surplus of job openings — there were 10.6 million openings in November and 6.4 million unemployed in December — Ohio is consistently losing 10% to 40% of its college graduates to other states. The reasons why vary.

Ohio officials fear it could get worse

Ohio lawmakers are concerned about a brain drain becoming a flood.

Late last year, state Rep. Jon Cross, R-Kenton, introduced a bill designed to provide incentives to keep some of the state's college graduates from moving elsewhere. The proposals range from allowing college graduates to forgo paying income taxes for three years to forgiving college loans to out-of-state students seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics if they are in the top 5% of their class and they remain in Ohio after graduation.

The Times-Reporter, Canton Repository and other USA Today Network newspapers in Northeast Ohio visited college campuses across the region to talk with students about what could keep them from leaving the Buckeye State — if anything.

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