New England Regularly Ranks Lowest in Recent College Graduate Retention, Says Boston Fed Study New England Regularly Ranks Lowest in Recent College Graduate Retention, Says Boston Fed Study

June 3, 2013
Contact: Lauren Nyren, 617-973-2872,

BOSTON - College students are consistently opting to leave New England after graduation, according to the latest policy brief from the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

The author, senior economist Alicia Sasser Modestino, examined college graduate retention rates across the country and found that New England has consistently ranked lowest on the list. "Only 63.6 percent of the 2008 graduating class were still living in New England one year after graduation - the lowest retention rate in the nation." Among the New England states, retention rates ranged from 52.0 percent in Massachusetts down to only 20.0 in Vermont. In comparison, competitor states such as New York and California retained over three-quarters of their 2008 recent college graduates.

"Between 1990 and 2010, the number of individuals aged 22-27 years with a bachelor's degree or higher in New England grew by only 12.1 percent -less than 1/3 the national increase," said Modestino. "As a result, policymakers and business leaders are concerned that an inadequate supply of skilled workers may hamper the region's economic growth."

New England colleges attract a higher percentage of students from other regions than anywhere else in the country, so why is the region having so much trouble retaining them? Modestino says that these non-native students have a propensity to move back home after graduation - whether to take a job or be closer to family. The other factor is the large share of students graduating from New England's many private institutions that are more likely to leave the region where they studied than public school graduates.

According to Modestino's research, recent college graduates who leave New England cite a number of reasons, including economic factors like availability of jobs, compensation levels and cost of living, as well as noneconomic factors like proximity to family, educational opportunities, and local amenities like weather, culture, and recreation.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, recent college graduates are leaving New England primarily for job-related reasons - not housing costs," said Modestino. "This suggests that states can take tangible steps to retain more recent college graduates by building stronger ties between colleges and employers."

Modestino suggests that this could be achieved by expanding the use of internship and cooperative learning opportunities throughout the region. Such programs benefit all parties by providing work experience for students, lowering recruiting costs for employers, and enhancing the reputation of a college or university.

"Our hope is that business leaders, policymakers, and universities -armed with a better understanding of the factors affecting the retention of recent college graduates -can identify and mobilize joint initiatives targeted at efficiently and effectively expanding the region's supply of skilled workers."

"Retaining Recent College Graduates in New England: An Update on Current Trends" and the State Data Appendix can be found here: