seal  Purdue News

Damming the 'Brain Drain'

From Perspective
July 2004 edition

For every Indiana high school graduate who decides to attend college out of state, Indiana colleges and universities enroll 2.2 of their peers – a statistic that puts Indiana sixth among states in recruitment. However, Indiana loses more than its share of college graduates who leave to pursue high-tech, high-salary jobs they don’t find in Indiana – an economic problem called brain drain.

FieFie Jin &
Patricia Wiyono

Download photo
caption below

Indiana’s brain drain was quantified in 1999 when the Human Capital Retention Project done by Indiana’s Fiscal Policy Institute showed the state retaining nearly 30 percent fewer college graduates than the national average.

Purdue is determined to help change that percentage.

"Purdue students tell our career counselors that they like living here, but they won’t stay if the good jobs are elsewhere," says President Martin Jischke. "The best long-term solution to this problem is for Indiana to expand its economy and increase job opportunities for well-educated people. In the shorter term, we have to make sure that college graduates are well-informed about job opportunities in the state and that Indiana employers understand what it takes to hire bright young people in a global job market."

As part of Purdue’s pledge to be engaged throughout Indiana solving problems and creating economic opportunities, the University has begun work on a three-year, $3.5 million program supported by Lilly Endowment Inc. to cork the brain drain and begin building a lasting reservoir.

In April, Purdue and Lilly Endowment introduced the "Opportunity for Indiana" program at each of the University’s campuses. In those communities and elsewhere in the state, Purdue will use the funding for several progressive initiatives. They will:

  • Provide Purdue students with internships at high-tech Indiana companies.

  • Subsidize teams of interns.

  • Increase the number of startup companies through business-planning competitions.

  • Provide support for startup companies.

  • Support entrepreneurship training workshops.

  • Provide statewide access to Purdue’s entrepreneurial support programs.

  • Assist Indiana communities in recruiting startup companies to their regions.

    "We are pleased the Lilly Endowment has selected Purdue as one of its grant recipients," Jischke said in acknowledging the grant. "Our challenge, which Purdue’s Opportunity for Indiana program seeks to address, is to help create a business environment that gives graduates of Indiana institutions a chance to make their mark right here in Indiana.

    "The state is producing larger numbers of talented graduates than many states, but the brain drain has less to do with the supply of graduates than the supply of good jobs. Growing new startup companies right here in Indiana offers the greatest opportunity for the state to generate highly competitive, high-tech, innovation-oriented endeavors."

    Jischke says one particular initiative – the Interns for Indiana initiative – directly involves students who will soon be job hunters. The program, overseen by the Discovery Learning Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park, will identify students for internships, provide educational assistance from the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, make appropriate connections with companies, and eventually assess how the program’s outcome contributes to Indiana’s economy.

    High-tech job fairs are now standard fixtures at Purdue thanks to efforts by Purdue Research Park and Purdue’s Technical Assistance Program. Taking the job fair a step further in May, Purdue issued special invitations to graduates who have worked out of state for five years or more to come to a free job fair for white-collar workers. In collaboration with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, dozens of Indiana employers, including several high-tech companies, were represented at the fair held at Purdue Memorial Union.

    The momentum Purdue is building is getting attention. The Southern Technology Council of the Southern Growth Policies Board named Purdue one of its elite 12 universities for economic development. University Business magazine designated Purdue Research Park the biggest and best business incubation program in the country.

    "We still have much work to do," says Jischke. "With continued support from the state Legislature, Lilly Endowment Inc. and visionary corporate leaders who believe in the future of Indiana, we can put a plug in the brain drain and keep our best and brightest."


    Cutline: Patricia Wiyono (right), a Purdue management major, is pictured with FieFie Jin. Wiyono served with Jin as an intern at Fanger Communications in Indianapolis. While at Fanger Communications, Wiyono helped to build a database that listed more than 75,000 members of a target market. Placing interns in high-tech companies is part of Purdue’s effort to help keep graduates in the state of Indiana.