COLUMBUS — Graduates of any Ohio college, public or private, who take a full-time job in the state would be exempt from state income tax for up to three years, under legislation proposed Monday by a Republican lawmaker with an aim of recruiting and retaining Ohio college students.
Businesses that offer paid college internships would receive a tax break, the state would offer up to 100 merit-based scholarships of $25,000 to out-of-state students and more money would be added to Ohio’s college grant fund for students with associate degrees pursuing a bachelor’s, according to the plan from Rep. Jon Cross, a Kenton Republican.
Students would have to be in the top 5% of their graduating class and pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math to receive the out-of-state scholarships.
The goal “is to incentivize Ohio’s younger population to live, learn, work and prosper in Ohio vs. leaving the state after graduation,” said Cross, chairperson of the House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education.
Cross didn’t have a price tag for the measure but said its cost had to be balanced by the potential revenue gain of people staying in the state or coming to Ohio as a result of the incentives. Cross noted that at one time, Ohio had 24 congressional districts but because of population shifts in other parts of the country is down to 15. His legislation should put the state in position to return to 24, he said.
That could be a heavy lift: the states that have gained House seats in recent years — including Texas, Florida and Colorado — have also experienced strong population growth, while Ohio, with about 11.8 million people, has experienced only minimal growth.
Cross was joined by several university presidents at Monday’s announcement, including the leaders of Ohio State, Bowling Green State University, the University of Cincinnati, Marietta College and Ursuline College in suburban Cleveland.
Twenty-six percent of students at the University of Findlay are from out of state, and 62% of the school’s alumni work in Ohio, said Findlay president Katherine Fell.
“We would like that to be a larger percentage, and with this bill we believe that will happen,” she said.
Cross said creative approaches are necessary, noting that plenty of other states provide incentives to attract students, including Alabama, which offers generous scholarships to qualifying out-of-state students.
“Who the hell wants to go to Alabama? I don’t,” Cross said. “But there’s a pipeline of students in Ohio that go to Alabama. So we have to get competitive.”