Keeping Hawaii graduates in Hawaii

Hawaii is a beautiful, unique place to live, but let’s face it: it’s expensive to live here. It’s remote and there aren’t a lot of high-paying jobs. That’s why we’re so concerned about the “brain drain” when some of our most talented and motivated graduates leave Hawaii.

There are a lot of abstract solutions – like diversifying our economy, creating more jobs, lowering corporate taxes, and encouraging small business growth. Those are all important goals, and we shouldn’t lose sight of them.

But let’s think about some specific tactics we can use to keep our talented and motivated graduates in Hawaii. Here are three ideas:

* Guarantee affordable housing units for up to three years after graduation. In partnership with the University of Hawaii, Hawaii businesses, and hotel operators, we could build residential buildings or designate affordable housing units for recent graduates. Who would qualify? 1) Hawaii high school graduates who attain a degree from an accredited university anywhere in the US; and 2) University of Hawaii graduates. Graduates would need to be in the top 10% of professional fields like education, emergency response, engineering, law enforcement, medicine, and science. This would encourage high school graduates to return to Hawaii to work, even if they attend an out-of-state college.

* Create a car sharing service. Hawaii could implement a car sharing service (ideally available to everyone) which would let you sign up for a driving plan (including insurance), reserve a car for a certain amount of time (in hours or days), use it, and then return the car. This would help young graduates who may occasionally need a car, but who can’t afford one. The service should pay for itself, once the initial program and cars are in place. Companies like and cities like San Francisco (, Philadelphia (, and Boulder ( are already doing it. Why not Hawaii?

* Offer a tax credit or low tax rate for recent graduates. We could create either a Hawaii tax credit or a low tax rate (perhaps even 0%) for Hawaii graduates for the first three years of employment in Hawaii. Who would qualify? 1) Hawaii high school graduates who attain a degree from an accredited university anywhere in the US; and 2) University of Hawaii graduates. Of course, Hawaii would have to be their principal residence, and they would have to file Hawaii tax returns. This would encourage graduates to find a job in Hawaii, help them in the early years while their salary is low, and make it easier for them to stay.

Hopefully, after three years, the graduates will have settled into life in Hawaii, earned a raise or two, and saved up enough money to afford to live here.

These are just a few ideas for stopping Hawaii’s “brain drain.” What else can we do to help our young residents stay in Hawaii?

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Taxes

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