On Friday talk radio, Governor Jim Justice's Revenue Secretary, Dave Hardy, invited listeners to submit budget plans since, you know, our feckless legislators hated the governor's plan and still don't have a plan of their own.
Here's my "Higginbotham Plan" which I've been sharing with lobbyists and red-faced legislators for weeks. My plan is more of an economic development plan since West Virginia's elected leaders haven't dealt with West Virginia's constraint on prosperity, our poorly-educated workforce.
1. Make the Promise Scholarship a STEM scholarship. Companies won’t come here for our English majors, political science majors and communications majors, but they will come here to gain access to our mathematicians, software engineers, chemists and other STEM grads if we produce them in large numbers.
2. Require Promise Scholarship recipients to sign a contract with West Virginia obligating them to stay in West Virginia for, say, 5 years after graduation. Too many of West Virginia’s college grads are leaving with their degrees and making some other state’s workforce magnetic to outside investment. If they give us five years, they’ll marry, have children, build houses, make friends. Most will never leave. Maybe along the way they’ll invent things and, who knows, maybe some of them will start the next Apple or the next Google.
3. Expand the Promise Scholarship to fund tens of thousands of students’ annually instead of the current 3,000 to 3,500 annually. At its current size, the Promise Scholarship is the right medicine in a dosage insufficient to heal the West Virginia economy.
4. Double the per-student annual scholarship award from its current $4,750 to around $9,000 or $10,000 so students can carry full loads and finish in 4 years.
5. Pay the college debt of STEM grads who want to come to West Virginia and are willing to sign a contract requiring them to become part of West Virginia’s workforce for at least five years.
6. Pay for the above with a severance tax, an excise tax or the proceeds from the state lottery or some combination of the aforementioned. For example, the Tennessee Promise program provides 2 years of free technical or community college to Tennessee high school grads at a cost of about $35 million annually and is paid for by the state lottery.
About Joseph Higginbotham:Joseph Higginbotham is a former member of the West Virginia Region III Workforce Investment Board, a former executive and technical search consultant, a former general manager and a former columnist and writer for newspapers, magazines and journals such as Business Lexington, Rx HomeCare, Leadership, Drug Store News, Campus Career Counselor, Home Health Care Dealer and more. Higginbotham has spoken professionally at over 40 venues, served as an “expert panelist” at jobseeker workshops and a guest on numerous talk radio shows.
Higginbotham At Large neither reads nor publishes comments from pseudonymous or anonymous commenters. No Ring of Gyges for you.
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