by Rob Roper
The career guidance site, Zippia, recently ran a study of states and how they faired at retaining college graduates. They sampled 127,403 resumes to determine the percentage of graduates that left states for their first jobs after college. Vermont had the second worst retention record, seeing nearly 70% of our students leave the state after graduation and as they enter the job market.
Only Delaware fared worse, losing 70.69 percent. Neighbors New Hampshire and Maine, also in the bad “Top 10”, lost 64 and 59 percent respectively. Texas has the best record, retaining over 80% of its graduates.
The main reasons for young people’s decisions to move are, not surprisingly, employment opportunities and, a little surprising at first but less so upon reflection, “love.” The two factors are related. Not only does the graduate need a job, his or her love interest needs a job too. Preferably a career.
Another factor working against Vermont is the number of out-of-state students we take into our public colleges. “Vermont admits 2,062 out-of-state students to its public colleges and sends 622 students to other states’ public colleges.” Most public colleges cater to in-state students, and students tend to return to (or stay in) their home states after graduation.
This reveals two failings of our K-12 system, one in quality and one in cost.
First, according to a legislative study done by the University of Vermont, “the high school graduation rate for Vermont was … 92.5% in 2012-13, well above the national average of … 81.0% in 2012-13. But, Vermont tends to produce a low level of high school graduates who continue on to postsecondary education or other programs that develop higher-level skills. In 2013, the national postsecondary enrollment rate immediately after graduating was 66%, while in Vermont it was 52%.”
We would probably have a better college graduate retention rate if we generated more local graduates with less dependence upon out of state students. However, the K-12 system is failing to prepare high school kids to succeed at the college level. That needs to change.
The second issue is that Vermont does not support our public colleges financially. According to the legislative study, “Vermont ranks 49th in terms of total state fiscal support for higher education,” and “… only 35% of low-income students enrolled in a postsecondary institution, whereas the New England average was nearly 47% in 2015.’ Moreover, “Data from the Vermont Community Foundation states that, “Vermont students and their families incur 25% more debt for a bachelor’s degree than the national average, ranking Vermont second to last in the nation for affordable education.”
This is critical because, as the Zippia study concludes, “Of the ten states that lost the greatest percentage of graduates, six of them also fund their public colleges the least.”
What does this have to do with K-12? Well, in Vermont the K-12 system and new efforts to expand pre-k programs are sucking all of the financial oxygen out of the room. We are consistently in the top five for spending on Pre-K-12, and next to last for higher education. This is out of balance. I’m not suggesting we as a state spend more money, but it would make sense to reallocate the money we are spending.