The percentage of Vermont college graduates leaving the state is the highest in the nation, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce reports. Vermont must somehow retain students who come to Vermont but then go elsewhere to start their careers, the Chamber concludes.
Only about 35% of college grads stay in Vermont, compared to about 90% for #1 in the nation California. The report blames lack of stimulating job opportunities for the large number of college grads.
The Chamber Sept. 20 newsletter report is published verbatim below:
A recent Washington Post story, citing novel research using LinkedIn data that quantifies the brain drain (or gain) phenomenon across the country, has been getting a lot of attention here in the Green Mountain State. The data show Vermont to be the biggest loser which means we have the highest proportion of college graduates that leave compared to every other state.
Why this isn’t a surprise.
Unlike national trends, Vermont colleges and universities are seeing a growing number of applicants and record enrollment. At the same time, K-12 enrollment in Vermont continues to steadily decline. This means an increasing proportion of our college students are coming from out-of-state and are less likely to stay. Whether a college graduate grew up in Vermont or came here from another state, they also need viable options stay. Graduates leave in pursuit of opportunities that are more abundant elsewhere.
Where are college graduates going?
States with large, dynamic, metropolitan hubs experience brain gain. Cities like San Francisco, New York, D.C., Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago have a very strong pull. These are areas that generally have a high cost of living, but the availability of entry-level opportunities that align with the skills and qualifications of recent graduates is a strong enough incentive to attract talent. Small, rural states that lack such opportunities lose out on the talent that they are producing.
What does this mean for Vermont?
Our current workforce shortage can’t be solved by simply retaining young Vermonters. Even if every high school graduate joined the workforce or attended a Vermont college and stayed after graduation, Vermont would still have a workforce shortage. The fact that so many out-of-state students have chosen to come to Vermont for their college education is encouraging! The critical next step is retaining talent and attracting graduates from other states too. This would address workforce issues and help to change the demographic mix of our state to be economically resilient.
There’s an opportunity gap in Vermont which means many college graduates look elsewhere to launch their careers. Creating the conditions for businesses to grow can produce the missing opportunities and competitive wages that graduates are seeking.
They need a reason to choose Vermont that is more compelling than what major metro areas can offer.