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editorial - herald- 3/20/01

March 19, 2001

What will keep students from leaving W. Virginia?



A year after members of the West Virginia Senate's finance committee expressed frustration with the way the state does business, the legislature has formed a select committee to devise a master plan for economic development.

Though the committee has been charged with looking at three major areas - the tax base, education and workforce development - the committee the more difficult question of how to keep the students and workers it trains from taking that training elsewhere.

It's a concern that was raised more than a year ago in an Associated Press survey of citizens in all the state's counties. Though they said they were satisfied with their schools, they worried about the possibility that they were paying to educate people who would then leave the state. State Sen. Walt Helmich, a Pocahantas County Democrat on the finance committee, expressed the same concern in January 2000.

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Forgiving all or part of a student's college tuition or training costs is one way to keep them home for a while, but is that enough to get such people to make a long-term commitment to the state?

We suggest that since workforce development and the education system in general are key parts of this study, the select committee should do surveys of students who are now in college or in advanced training. Ask them what they're looking for in a career and what amenities or opportunities the state would have to provide to keep them here.

Not only would the survey convey the message that the state is interested in what the next generation thinks, it would also provide input on desires state officials may not have identified, like opportunities for continuing career training and for cultural activities - theater, music and the like.

It may seem unfair that government is asked to provide such things, but if having some of these things keeps West Virginia best and brightest from taking their expertise elsewhere, it seems like small price to pay.

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