Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


Educational Leadership and Policies


Higher Education and Student Affairs

First Advisor

Julie Rotholz


Brain drain is a concept which purports that an area's economy suffers when its most educated population migrates from home. While this phenomenon is most frequently studied in developing countries, within the United States, some states are concerned with losing their most educated workers and scholars to other states or countries as well. As a method to combat the concern, some states have implemented merit scholarships to entice achieving students to attend in-state institutions of higher education. South Carolina's lottery-funded merit programs waive tuition for students; however there is no reason to assume that the students will live and work in South Carolina after completing their baccalaureate degrees. This study explored the intentions of the senior merit scholarship recipients in the majors of science, technology, engineering, and math about where they plan to live and work after graduating. The findings were analyzed through the lens of Schlossberg's theory of students in transition (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006) and answer the following questions:

Research Question 1: Do senior state merit scholarship recipients studying math, science, engineering, and technology intend to remain in South Carolina after graduation? If so, why?

Research Question 2: Do participants perceive the scholarship as a factor in the decision-making processes about where to live and work after graduating?

Findings of this study lend further insight into human capital theory. The study finds that students in transition find themselves at the individual level of human capital theory;

however, policy-makers hope the funds affect the societal level. Additionally, merit scholarship programs are created to help build an educated workforce and are therefore shaped to support a public good. Students, on the other hand, view their scholarships as aid to allow them as individuals to advance, making higher education to be viewed by participants as a private good.


© 2011, Allison Louise Atkins