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HARTFORD, CT — A group of legislators hope to head off the “brain drain” from state colleges and universities by providing graduates with a special tax break to give them an incentive to stay in Connecticut or to move here.

Under HB 5586, college graduates who remain in Connecticut to live and work — or those who move here within two years of earning their degree — would be eligible for an income tax credit to be used over a five-year period. 

House Speaker Joseph Aresimowicz says he doesn’t want to see students leave the state because of overall affordability.

“What can we do to make Connecticut more lucrative and more affordable for them to stay here after they’ve gotten their college degrees?” Aresimowicz asked rhetorically.

The proposal is based on a similar effort in Maine. Supporters say they estimate there are 50,000 to 60,000 college graduates in Connecticut each year who could be eligible for the credit. 

Aresimowicz says in Maine only about 10 percent of those eligible applied for the tax credit. And with that as a guide, he estimated that the credit could cost Connecticut about $6 million in tax revenue per year. Financial details are still being worked out, but the amount of the credit would depend on the graduate’s income.

Rep. Jason Rojas, an East Hartford democrat who works at Trinity College, said Friday that the measure is a way to help revitalize the Connecticut economy.

Rojas says Trinity is one of the few small liberal arts schools with an engineering program, “and we know there’s a need out there for engineers. Electric Boat, I think, needs 300 engineers this June. What are we going to do to make sure we’re recruiting the kinds of students that are interested in engineering and want to stay here and fill those thousands of jobs that are coming into the pipeline? I think this is one way we can do that.”

Jennifer Widness, president of Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, said the bill isn’t specific about how much of a credit a student would receive. However, she said every little bit could help offset the higher cost of living.

She told the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee on Friday that the biggest issue graduates face is finding a job.

Aresimowicz said many graduates may get low paying jobs where there isn’t much of a tax burden, but the tax credit could help those graduates with higher incomes.

Yale political science and history major Nicholas Girard grew up in Stafford. He said many students — both those who grew up here, and those who come here for college — want to stay, but they face serious financial obstacles.

“Students like me want to make a difference in this state and our communities after graduation, but with the financial challenges that are facing us, particularly the growing cost of student loans, too many of my friends and peers have moved away or are thinking of moving away from Connecticut after graduation,” Girard said. “I want to stay here in the state I love with my family and friends, but my financial situation after graduation makes my path uncertain.”

Alva Greenburg, founder of Serve Here CT agrees. “The state needs to address the underlying causes of the exodus of millennials—a lack of career path jobs, student debt, and disengagement from the community. “

Greenberg founded Serve Here CT to encourage young people to stay in the state, invest in their local communities, contribute to job growth and help manage the soaring cost of higher education.