Shifting the Paradigm of Pride
Volumes of research studies, surveys, and census data document the “brain drain,” the phenomenon of highly educated and highly skilled workers migrating from their hometown to an urban or metropolitan area that promises a better life. Early indications of brain drain begin with high school graduates determining where to attend college. There is a pervasive belief that it is a measure of success and part of a process of upward mobility to go away to college, and therefore an implied failure if one remains in their hometown or region while earning a degree. This mentality and encouraged brain drain behavior is reinforced by a K-12 education system that sorts students early in their academic careers and invests in the best and brightest, while paying little attention to the majority of students (Harmon, 2010). This is a skewed approach and leaves many individuals, and their hometowns, with few opportunities and stifled upward social and economic mobility.
The needs of the workforce are rapidly changing. Some form of post-secondary education is required for the majority of entry-level jobs in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Yet, higher education is being faced with increasing competition and growing skepticism regarding the value of a college degree. By collaborating and partnering with the region in which an institution exists, urban, suburban, or rural, colleges and universities can cut through higher education’s competitive noise and growing skepticism, while addressing the changing workforce needs and redefining students’ pride about where they earn a degree, and begin their careers, close to home.
We call this paradigm shift the “Brain Remain,” and it has the potential to significantly alter the way higher education, K-12 districts, businesses, and community leaders work, operate, and collaborate in the new economy. This, in turn, can create bold new opportunities for students where they least expect them: right in their own backyards.
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