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Michigan retaining more recent college grads, survey finds

From The Detroit News
By Kim Kozlowski
May 30, 2013

More young people are staying in Michigan after graduating from college, with job opportunities driving the brain gain, according to a preliminary survey released today at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

The study, convened by the Detroit Regional Chamber, showed that 12 percent more graduates are staying in the state after graduation compared with five years ago. Fifty-one percent of recent college graduates stayed in Michigan in 2007 when a similar study was done. The latest study shows 63 percent are now staying.

Jobs were the main reason graduates remained in Michigan, the study showed. Those who leave generally land higher-paying positions outside of Michigan, or are searching for a vibrant urban environment such as Chicago, which is a top destination for Michigan graduates.

“Talent retention is a key driver of economic vitality,” said Benjamin Erulkar, senior vice president of economic development for the chamber. “States that continue to lose their talented graduates will fall behind in the global economy.”

The survey included students younger than 28, who had graduated in May 2012 and were no longer in school.

It was conducted with financial support from the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which is actively trying to lure Michigan natives living elsewhere back to the state.

Among those who are staying in Michigan is Philip Lewis, who graduated with a sociology degree from Michigan State University earlier this month. Lewis will be teaching in Detroit Public Schools as part of Teach for America, a nonprofit that enlists college graduates and professionals to teach in urban and rural schools for two years. A native Detroiter, Lewis said he wanted to stay in Michigan.

“I felt like I needed to be here to help the youth,” said Lewis, 22. “I felt like it was my responsibility as a Detroiter to help however I can, and education is probably the best place to start.”

Some out-of-state students, such as Kayla Thompson, also plan to stick around in the Great Lakes State after graduation.

Thompson, 22, is originally from a suburb south of Chicago. She graduated earlier this month from Western Michigan University with a degree in business administration and landed a job at ad agency Campbell Ewald. She will start working for the company in Warren and then in downtown Detroit when the company moves its headquarters early next year.

“There were a lot more opportunities here than in Chicago,” said Thompson. “There was more of a need for younger people who want to be in the city. I definitely want to move to Detroit. It’s just more alive down there. It’s kind of like a mini-Chicago.”

The survey comes as more business and political leaders are clamoring for Michigan to make a bigger investment in higher education so it can become a top state for jobs, personal income and economic growth.

“It’s no great surprise that when the economy comes back, we are keeping more kids in Michigan,” said Doug Rothwell, CEO and president of Business Leaders for Michigan, an organization of top leaders from the state’s largest companies and universities. “Our diversification is happening … and these are the jobs that are doing terrific here in Michigan and kids are going into today.”

But Michigan is still fighting the lure of Chicago, which attracts many Michigan graduates such as Ryan Van Bergen. He moved there in January to take a position as an account manager for a manufacturing company after graduating from the University of Michigan in December 2011.

Van Bergen, 24, likes Chicago, and all that it has to offer. But he wouldn’t mind moving back closer to Whitehall, his hometown on the west side of Michigan.

“I could go and play a round of gold with my dad,” Van Bergen said.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2024