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Our View: Hathaway is not a bad investment

 

October 17, 2018



Is the Hathaway Scholarship a poor investment by the State of Wyoming?

That’s an idea briefly mentioned during a political debate at Western Wyoming Community College last week.

The argument goes like this: the Hathaway Scholarship was meant to be a means of providing an incentive for students to both work hard and stay in Wyoming to earn their college degree and hopefully stay and apply their education in the state. However, Wyoming continues to lose its educated youth, who have taken to using the scholarship as a way of getting a low-cost degree then shuffling off to Utah, Colorado and other states for better opportunities.

Under that framework, the Hathaway Scholarship offers a terrible return on investment for the state. However, we think there’s more to think about than simply who uses it to get a degree to ultimately leave.

Regardless of the people who leave after obtaining a college degree, the scholarship provides a means for students to get a quality education that can be applied in Wyoming. Teachers, engineers and others in high-demand professions in Wyoming have used the scholarship to move into roles available in Wyoming. However, the larger question of why Wyoming’s youth often leave the state is answered by a word we’ve already used in this piece: opportunity. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities within specific areas of Wyoming’s economy, but jobs in areas such as technology, software development the like are not widely available. Anyone with that kind of education would have to chose to fill a role that likely doesn’t utilize that education in Wyoming, hoping for something to come along later, or simply leave and apply their education elsewhere. For a graduate who grew up in Wyoming’s open spaces, the desire to see what else is out there can be equally tempting.

Expanding the state’s economy outside of the energy industry is a must and thankfully, the state’s leaders have started looking into that idea through ENDOW and other programs.

Simply attracting the next big industry is not enough however, and the state should consider incentives for Wyoming-grown endeavors in high-demand fields.

Hathaway should only be considered part of larger system designed to keep the state’s youth in Wyoming and help it grow beyond its energy economy.

Otherwise, it will continue to be an attractive means for the state’s best and brightest to earn an affordable education and go to wherever the next big thing is.

 

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