Gov. Dannel Malloy announced on Thursday that he wants to borrow $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to strengthen the science, technology, engineering and math programs at the University of Connecticut.
This announcement raises a few questions.
First, how much of that money will actually go to STEM students and faculties? The announcement said the state would spend some of the $1.5 billion on increasing the number of students and fellowships in STEM programs at the university, but also said the state would spend some of the money on new dormitories and parking facilities.
Second, will the STEM expansion actually bring jobs to the state, outside the obvious new jobs for faculty and the temporary construction jobs?
Third, can we keep the new STEM students in Connecticut after they graduate? Let’s face it, If there aren’t good jobs for these well-trained students here, they will take their useful degrees elsewhere.
Over the past ten years the number of students who took jobs in Connecticut after graduating from UConn dropped from 61 percent to 58 percent.
These statistics point to a larger problem: the state is losing its young people to other states. We already have an out-migration problem, and while it is important to provide our young people with a good education, if we want to keep them we also have to provide them with good jobs.
What do we promise the students who do stick around after graduating? One of the highest tax burdens in the nation. And a state that already had the worst debt situation in the country before it took on more debt to give these students an education.
Having a world-class university in Connecticut is a worthy goal, as is expanding the number of graduating students who are trained for the jobs of tomorrow. But if this is really a priority, then perhaps we should find a way to make it work with money we already have, instead of borrowing more.
And if we really want to do right by these students – and the state – then what we need to do is create the kind of business-friendly environment that will attract companies to hire them.
It’s not rocket science.
Suzanne Bates is a fellow at the Yankee Institute. She lives in South Windsor.