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STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Education

Plugging Michigan's brain drain with a tax credit

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Every year, thousands of the state's best and brightest collect diplomas from Michigan colleges and universities ... and then leave for Chicago, New York and other cities. However, two lawmakers think tax credits could help keep the brain drain at bay.

State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, says he believes more young people would choose to stay in Michigan if there were a little something extra to sweeten the pot.

"We're in the process of creating these great places where students are going to want to be, but in addition to that, they come out of college with fairly sizable debt," he said. "To get a tax credit if they will stay in Michigan and work in Michigan is an incentive for them to stay here."

Schor introduced legislation that would offer tax credits equal to 50 percent of the amount of qualified student-loan payments made during a single tax year, with a cap of $2,150 per year, for students who graduate from Michigan schools and stay to work in the state. A similar bill stalled last year because of Republican opposition, but Schor said he feels bipartisan support for the measure is growing.

The idea is modeled after a successful program in Maine. Given that Michigan has some of the most sought-after higher-education institutions in the nation, Schor said, he sees no reason the concept couldn't work here.

"Students decide where they want to live after they graduate, and then they go there, and then they find jobs there," he said. "It's the chicken and the egg; what businesses a lot of times look for, when they're going to locate somewhere, is if that place has the appropriate talent."

According to The Institute for College Access and Success, the average graduate in Michigan leaves college with nearly $30,000 in student debt.

State Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-Lansing, has introduced a similar bill in that chamber.