OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi State Biological Science major Macy Loper fits the bill — she plans to leave the Magnolia State when she graduates.
She wants to go to nursing school and when she is done, she is getting out of the state.
“Mainly because people don’t get paid a lot,” Loper said. “I love the state. I wish I could stay here, but I feel like there are a lot more opportunities out of Mississippi.”
“We have got to do a better job of linking up our universities with employers, and I talk to Mississippi employers all the time, and they say the number-one thing that we need is good skilled workers,” said Mississippi State’s Auditor Shad White . “We have a need, and we have a supply. We just have to connect the two.”
A new study by his office found that three years after Mississippi students graduate, 50% of them leave the Magnolia State to work elsewhere.
Even among those who are from Mississippi, 38% of them are gone just as quickly.
White commissioned the “brain drain” study to find out if the state was getting its money’s worth for what it was putting into higher education.
Between 2015 and 2018, the state spent more than $1.5 billion on students at its public universities.
“We are investing a ton of money and only keeping half of our work product,” White said.
“My name is Shantae Bowen, and I am a management information systems major with a minor in marketing, and my future plans are to go to work in Texas or Florida for a major company,” said Ole Miss student Shantae Bowen.
Bowen is like many of her classmates.
The auditor’s study shows that among in-state graduates from the University of Mississippi, between 2015 and 2017, fewer than 52% had a job in the state three years after graduation.
So how can this trend be stopped?
State Senator David Parker of Olive Branch is working with the state’s workforce development program. He told us that information from the study is the first step.
“I think that for many years we did things without a plan,” Parker said. “If you don’t have a plan it’s hard to prepare a workforce. If you don’t know what kind of careers and jobs you need in the state, it’s hard to prepare a workforce for jobs you don’t know are present or needed in the state.”
Auditor White said the talk is about how to do a better job of connecting students and soon-to-be graduates with careers that are in-state, and keeping them there.
“What if we had a career officer at every Mississippi university whose sole job is to get the graduates jobs in Mississippi, because we are already shoveling out a ton of money?” White said.
For some, like recent Ole Miss pharmacy school graduate Dr. Holly Taylor, the decision to stay in Mississippi is easy.
“Because family is here and my baby is here, and this is home and I have got to stay at home,” she said.
But a recent trip by the auditor to speak to an accounting class at Ole Miss gave him some ugly first-hand numbers on what the state is dealing with when he asked the class some questions.
Whit asked, “how many of y’all are leaving the state of Mississippi?” About the response, he said, “it looked like about 100% of the hands went up. So I said, ‘How many are staying?,’ and it was small enough to count; about 7.”
Those ugly numbers aren’t adding up well for Mississippi.
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