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Out-Of-State Jobs Lure Top Students

By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER, Courant Staff Writer

January 03, 2008

Students who score high on the state's high school standardized test are more likely to get high SAT scores, attend college, and earn college credits faster than their peers.

But chances are they won't end up as part of Connecticut's workforce, no matter how far they get in college, according to a study of more than 170,000 students presented Wednesday to education officials.

Many top students leave the state to attend college, and more students who begin at Connecticut colleges transfer to out-of-state schools. Within a few years of graduation, the study found, only 25 percent of the top scorers on the math section of the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, a 10th-grade exam, were part of the state's labor force.

Talk of a brain drain is nothing new here; business leaders and educators have long worried as top students leave the state for college and beyond.

But the study, presented Wednesday to a joint meeting of the Board of Governors for Higher Education and the State Board of Education, offered a rare look at the problem, with data on 170,064 Connecticut students tracked through high school, college, and the workforce between 1996 and 2006.

The study looked at the destination of high-performing Connecticut students; it did not look more broadly at current members of the state's workforce who grew up in other states.

"There definitely is a public policy problem here that we've got to be able to solve," said Stephen Coelen, a research professor at the University of Connecticut and managing director for the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research at Holyoke Community College, and one of the study's authors.

Coelen said the study indicated that education in the state is working but that there must be more collaboration between educators, business leaders and state agencies to keep top students in the state. In particular, he said, academic institutions must work more closely with businesses.

"We need to change and to blend what the real world needs with what is a theoretical perspective," he said. "I believe that any state, or any country for that matter, who can really do that is going to be the place that can turn the corner faster and more fluidly than other places."

The study, "Connecticut Next Steps: The Role of Education in Preparing for a Quality Work Force," tracked students who took the CAPT as sophomores between 1996 and 2000, using data on CAPT and SAT scores, college enrollment, and the labor market.

While many top students leave the state for college, "Next Steps" found a second "drain": students who transfer from colleges in Connecticut to schools out of state. Among Connecticut high school students who begin college in the state, 20.2 percent transfer out of state, while only 15.9 percent of Connecticut high school students who begin out of state transfer to Connecticut schools.

There have been exceptions to the trends.

Schools in the Connecticut State University system have drawn more students in from out-of-state colleges than they lose to schools out of state.

And UConn has improved its track record of attracting high-achieving high schoolers.

Among high school graduates in 1998, only about 10 percent of the top scorers on the CAPT math exam attended UConn; among 2002 high school graduates with the same CAPT scores, about 33 percent attended UConn.

Another encouraging finding, Coelen said, was an indication that remedial classes, which a growing number of college students need, seem to work. Students who passed remedial classes in the state's public colleges achieved grade-point averages similar to students who did not take remedial classes.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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