New England: No. 1 In ‘Non-Native’ College Students — And Fleeing Grads

BOSTON — With all of New England’s higher education institutions (and its relative slower population growth), it’s no surprise that a large share of the region’s college students are from elsewhere, as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston details in a new policy brief (PDF).

Retaining those students once they graduate, however, is an ongoing challenge for the New England economy.

In New England schools, nearly 34 percent of the class of 2008 were “non-native” students, as the Fed calls them. No other region had a non-native student population above 20 percent. But as the Fed writes in the brief:

Will they stay or will they go now? (AP File)

Will they stay or will they go now? (AP File)

While New England adds to its population of recent college graduates with each successive class, it retains a lower share of students upon graduation than other Census divisions.

A year after their 2008 commencements, just 63.6 percent of graduates from New England colleges still lived in the region. That’s the lowest retention rate of the nine Census regions measured. At the high end, the Pacific region’s retention rate was 88 percent.

(The brief doesn’t get more granular, for instance looking just at Greater Boston’s rate.)

So why is this happening, and how can New England improve its graduate retention?

Part of the “why” is obvious for this heavily non-native student population. The Fed says:

Having already migrated once to attend college, these students have a higher propensity to relocate after graduation — often to return home — whether to take a job or be closer to family.

From 1999-2012, most moved graduates (58 percent) cited job-related reasons for leaving New England. Some of that makes sense, too. As the Fed says, the region attracts college students, and then produces skilled graduates who have job opportunities in many locations.

But with most fleeing grads citing employment, can the region do anything? The Fed brief suggests collective action, like “building stronger ties between colleges and local employers to help graduates, particularly non-natives, learn about local job opportunities and form networks in the region.” The expanded use internships and co-ops fits the Fed prescription.

The brief is an update of a longer 2008 Fed report, found here.

Update on June 3: The Fed has released some additional state-level data (PDF), which detail that, of New England states, Massachusetts — at 52 percent — had the highest retention rate of 2008 college graduates. But that figure was still just 38th nationwide.

Here’s how the New England states ranked:
- No. 38: Massachusetts (52 percent)
- No. 39: Maine (50.7 percent)
- No. 41: Connecticut (47.9 percent)
- No. 44: New Hampshire (38.4 percent)
- No. 45: Rhode Island (32.7 percent)
- No. 47: Vermont (20 percent)

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  • burann

    This Fed report neglects the biggest issue to me and my fellow classmates, cost of living! Who wants to get nickel and dimed by the state when we have no skin in the game, per se. No children needing schooling, no need for advanced health care, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603965945 Kevin Macomber

    Companies have been taxed and/or regulated to the point they moved. This is validated by 700 CEOs who recently said MA was the 4th worst State to business in. These young people know that, found opportunities elsewhere, and I wish them well. Of those that stayed, I wonder how many are making $12-15hr. because they can’t find any other job. My guess is over half. The State of MA is clearly on a decline.

  • Ilios

    The state of MA is hardly on the decline, especially compared to a decade ago, when we were bleeding jobs and 47th in job growth. Burann is right-the cost of housing and cost of living for people who are early-on in their careers that is a deterrent to staying. There has been year-over-year job growth and Mass is second in receiving VC cash (next to Silicon Valley). Despite low unemployment and business investment, when a rent for a 2-bed apartment hovers around 2K, it’s very hard to make ends meet for the younger generation.

    • Ben Swasey

      Thanks for the comment. Though I left it out of the post, interestingly fewer than 2 percent of departing graduates cited housing as their primary reason for leaving, the Fed found. In the brief, it says: “Rental housing, unlike owner-occupied housing, is relatively affordable in New England compared with other [regions].”

      Again, remember this brief covers *all of New England*, not just Greater Boston. It’d be interesting to see the housing responses just for Greater Boston.

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