Letter: IU must take steps to solve Indiana’s brain drain problem

Indiana University claims their mission is to provide broad access to undergraduate and graduate education for students throughout Indiana.” However, the state ranks a dismal 44th in residents with a college degree – ahead of only Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Clearly, IU has a lot of work to do to effectively educate Indiana residents. (Photo: Robin Hall).

Indiana taxpayers have provided billions of dollars directly to fund the university. In return, IU has promised to educate Indiana taxpayers and their families and make a positive impact on the economy. The data IU often cites about their economic impact on the state comes from a 2020 report which is based upon the assumption that 7 out of 10 IU graduates stay in Indiana and pay state income taxes. Unfortunately, IU does not seem to be graduating enough Indiana residents to meet the 7 out of 10 threshold, especially not at their flagship campus.

Not enough in-state students

The IU Bloomington freshman class in 2023 consisted of only 54% Indiana residents.

Kelley School of Business researchers recently found that 59% of in-state students stay in Indiana for at least 5 years after graduation while only 24% of non-Indiana residents remain in Indiana for that same period after graduation. With that in mind, if IU Bloomington only admits 54% in-state students and only 59% of those students remain in Indiana for 5 years, and the 46% of out-of-state students who graduate remain in Indiana at a 24% rate, this means the total number of IU Bloomington graduates who remain in Indiana for at least 5 years is only 43% or 4.3 out of 10 graduates.

In-state students evidently stay in Indiana longer, so it would make sense to give more seats at the university to students who will contribute to the state for a longer period of time. 

IU Bloomington, however, does not compare well to other flagship universities when it comes to admitting in-state students. The University of Texas admits in-state students at a rate of 90%, the University of Illinois at 88%, UNC Chapel Hill  at 82% and UC Berkeley at 78%. IU does not fare well against other Big 10 universities either. UCLA accepts 78% of in-state students, Ohio State accepts 72%, University of Nebraska 70%, Michigan State 78%, University of Minnesota 67%, Rutgers University 88%, Maryland 63% and Penn State 63%.

Kelley School of Business

It is ironic that there are voices within the Kelley School of Business calling attention to this problem, while the administration of the college seems to be one of the bigger contributors to it. Admission statistics from IU indicate that less than 20% of all students admitted to the Kelley School of Business during the last 5 years were residents of Indiana. That means that less than 12% of Kelley Bloomington graduates will likely be residents of Indiana 5 years after graduation. 

Kelley’s in-state admission rate is far lower than other highly rated public undergraduate business programs like McCombs (University of Texas), which is close to 90%, Haas (UC Berkeley), which is close to 75%, Geis (University of Illinois), which is close to 85% and Kenan-Flagler (University of North Carolina), which is close to 80%. To make things even worse, in certain years (between 2020 and 2024), Kelley has admitted more students from the state of Illinois than residents from its home state of Indiana. 

One way Kelley officials keep in-state students out of Kelley Bloomington is by not accepting transfer credits from other IU regional campuses, including Kelley Indianapolis, even though Indiana law requires that Kelley Bloomington accept equivalent courses from all other regional campuses within the IU system. There is little reason why the courses at Kelley Bloomington should be functionally different, besides to gatekeep access to the flagship campus and allocate more admission slots to out-of-state students from financially better-off families in Illinois, New York, Texas, California, Ohio and New Jersey. 

Kelley has great potential to help solve the brain drain problem in Indiana. It is a shame to see it instead contribute to the opportunity costs associated with lost economic revenue for our state. You would think that of all the specific schools within IU, that Kelley would understand that Indiana taxpayers deserve a fair return on their investment. 

Policy solutions in other states

States like California, Texas and North Carolina have passed state laws that secure a certain percentage of admission spots for in state students—all of which are close to or exceed 80%. This is a big jump from IU’s paltry in-state rate of admission of 54%. However, adopting it would ensure that an appropriate number of spots for in-state students are reserved in return for their state’s financial support. It is clear that IU has a lot of work to do, but higher education is ultimately a partnership. Indiana legislators and IU leadership need to come together to ensure that higher education in Indiana continues to serve Hoosiers.

Editor’s Note: Letters to the editor do not necessarily represent the opinion of The Collegiate Commons, its editorial staff, or contributors. While normally letters are limited to 250 words, we decided to make an exception to encourage discussion about campus admissions policies, since it was in response to this op-ed. Any student is welcome to write another letter in response to this one and send it to thecollegiatecommons@gmail.com with your name and connection to the school, and a similar exception will be granted.

Robin Hall is an alumnus of the Kelley School of Business. After finishing his law degree, he spent 20 years in the banking sector enforcing tax laws and banking regulations. After obtaining his Certified Financial Planning credential, he started an independent financial services firm focused on complex financial and tax issues. Over the years, he has served on Boards, raised funds for primary and secondary education, and been actively involved in the Indianapolis community.

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