BRISTOL, R.I._ Roger Williams University’s Media Lab, Hawk the Vote hosted a debate between the College Republicans and Democrats. A myriad of Rhode Island and national political issues were brought forth to the table. Among these were the ‘Brain Drain,’ occurring in Rhode Island.
Though transitionary college students comprise nearly 10% of the 1 million Rhode Island residents, only one out of three students will remain post graduation, according to The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
According to US Census data, Rhode Island gained small numbers of people from other states from 2001 to 2003, and then started losing population — over 2,000 people in 2004, and a net total of nearly 23,000 people in 2005-2006. A contributing factor remains to be the reeling economy. The unemployment rate in the US currently is 5.9%, the lowest since the recession in 2008. However, Rhode Island’s rate is a staggering 7.7%- the thirst highest in the nation, 1.8 % higher than the national average.
“We have a very high unemployment rate, I mean, it’s scary,” said Dylan Kelly, representative of the RWU College Republicans, “I’ll be going back to Massachusetts for a job.”
A plethora of Roger Williams students testified that their future in Rhode Island is too hazy to take a chance on.
“I don’t think it’s feasible for me to stay in Rhode Island, with the job market,” said Erika Johnson, President of the RWU College Democrats, “I feel there’s better opportunities in Massachusetts or Washington D.C. especially for what I want to go into, but if something came up in Rhode Island, I would definitely think about staying.”
The term ‘Brain Drain,’ has been coined to explain the intellectual and imaginative power of the educated taking their talents elsewhere. This departure saps the state’s overall revenue- people who were previously contributing to local businesses, politics, and the overall vibrancy of the state, are now gone.
“Many of the students are not from Rhode Island, so we can’t expect them to stay in Rhode Island,”said Robert Eisinger, RWU Dean of College of Arts and Sciences. “So I think we want to ask ourselves not how many are leaving and why they’re leaving, but in fact, if the Rhode Island economy is vibrant, more of those students will yearn to stay in Rhode Island because of the vibrant economy. So the issue is not about brain drain, as much as it’s really about economic vibrancy in Rhode Island.”