State must reverse educational trends

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2001

The U.S. Census data should come as no surprise. Mississippi, while doing remarkably well in enrolling students in its public universities, is failing miserably at keeping its college graduates in the state.

According to data released this weekend, Mississippi trails most of the nation in the number of residents over the age of 25 who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. At just over 18 percent of our population holding a bachelor’s degree, the state trails the national average by 7 percent and is just 5 percent ahead of West Virginia, with the lowest college graduate retention rate in the nation.

So what does this tell us?

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That we need to do a better job retaining our college graduates. And that means, quite simply, giving them opportunities to succeed and grow. Economic opportunities. Professional opportunities. Creative opportunities.

And that means, once again, a focus on economic development.

Mississippi statistics are improving – our college graduates grew by about 3 percent during the last 10 years and corporations such as WorldCom and Nissan are operating Mississippi facilities – but we’re not improving enough. Our per capita income remains among the lowest in the nation. The quality of our state’s public education system is inconsistent and, in many places, inadequate. And our brightest young people are leaving the state that raised them to make their opportunities – and the futures – someplace else.

It’s a trend we need to reverse, during the next 10 years.