Periodicals and blogs across the United States really seem to enjoy publishing articles about the best places for recent college and university graduates to find jobs, live, and hopefully thrive. Rarely, though, do they ever turn their attention toward options that may lack the glamour, but seriously need the talent and the money young professionals provide for the local economy. In an effort to draw attention to specific economic and career needs, many cities have launched — or desire to launch — projects to draw this precious (and, of course, lucrative) demographic away from the usual spots. Each one sports a different strategy, and watching the results trickle in over time will certainly prove fascinating.
Niagara Falls is currently making a splash (pun totally and unapologetically intended) with its aggressive attempts to attract recent college graduates. In order to curb a dwindling population, the city will pay their student loan debts for two years if they agree to relocate to certain neighborhoods. Doing so, Mayor Paul A. Dyster and Community Development Director Seth A. Piccirillo hope, will provide businesses more of a reason to start establishing themselves in the shrinking downtown region and hopefully nurture the local economy.
Rust Belt cities have especially found themselves economically deprived as the American financial system imploded, and some desire to reverse this negative trend by encouraging recent college and university grads to take a chance and move there. Dayton’s unfortunate decade-long brain drain saw 1% of its degree-holding 25- to 35-year-olds leave. Fronted by Thomas Lasley, the city’s Learn to Earn project offers several different opportunities for both high school and college kids to pursue both an education and, to put it bluntly, Dayton itself. Encouraging internships at local businesses follows extensive research noting trends between retention and familiarity with the city’s job scene, and thus far, things appear positive.
While Pittsburgh-based jobs in the healthcare, education, and technology sectors may not prove as prevalent as a few other cities, it still currently enjoys a slow swelling between both industries. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl sent e-mails to seniors and recent graduates of local colleges and universities — specifically, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Community College of Allegheny County, and Point Park University — to sway them toward taking advantage of these opportunities rather than moving elsewhere. Pittsburgh often receives considerable praise for its affordability and job growth, both points that local officials seek to promote when pushing heightened graduate retention.
Lumina, an organization dedicated to seeing more Americans attain college degrees, and the City of Baltimore have worked together as part of the Goal 2025 initiative since 2000. So far, the team has spent $500,000 toward participating businesses and individuals keeping recent graduates local. Work still needs doing, obviously, but participants look at their current successes with positivity and encouragement. Most of these victories involve inspiring and supporting the 21% of Baltimore residents who have yet to complete their degrees to head back to the classroom and keep the populace educating.
America’s breadbasket probably doesn’t pop into the mainstream’s mind when they think of where exuberant young graduates head after college, but the Midtown Crossing section of Omaha defies the stereotype. Redeveloping the 15 acres into an active selection of shops, restaurants, and living spaces catering to the 25-to-35 demographic kept many local college kids from leaving after completing their degrees, and other suburbs and neighborhoods have been following suit. Instead of offering financial incentives or jobs, Omaha nurtures retention, if not outright encouraging brain drain from other cities, with its capitalistic inclinations.
Right now, the Queen City thinks crowdsourcing the issue of establishing a college-educated citizenry might produce some viable solutions. The Department of Planning and Buildings currently runs the Plan Build Live Participate project, which asks Cincinnati residents to share and discuss their ideas for improving upon various elements of the city that, quite simply, need improving. So far, six residents have posted ideas, with the most popular suggesting that the city build a PR campaign meant to showcase the particular and appealing traits that recent graduates find appealing.
Seeing as how New York enjoys a glitzy, glamorous image many college and university kids (especially those in creative industries) it may come as a surprise that the iconic city must offer incentives to lure in recent graduates. Education professionals, specifically. The Teachers of Tomorrow campaign by the New York City Department of Education uses state grant money to pay off the student loan debts of teachers who agree to tackle assignments in more underprivileged neighborhoods. Only top-tier applicants receive approval, and incentives beyond lifting financial burdens include professional development and leadership training opportunities. NYC’s students benefit from receiving an education from promising newcomers in kind.
Mayor Annise Parker entered Texas’ biggest city in the CEOs for Cities contest with the hopes of getting Houstonians graduating at the same rate as students from other cities, states, and even countries who move there to attend college. With the launch of Mydegreecounts.com, both she and the Center for Houston’s Future hope to see the amount of higher ed graduates in the city rise by 1% by 2013. Doing so, they believe, will result in more than $4 billion of revenue and an additional $1 million grant from CEOs for Cities should Houston prove the winner. Visitors to the website learn all about the colleges and universities that call the sweltering city home, find programs that interest them, and get detailed information about federal aid and other ways to pay.
Fifty of Kansas’ counties band together and call themselves the Rural Opportunity Zones, using both state and local money to develop themselves by offering incentives to new graduates looking for jobs. Because these regions so often hurt for young workers, who usually gravitate toward some degree of excitement and social engagement along with career launchers, they find other ways to bring them in and get them spending. Before Niagara Falls, the involved cities and counties were already agreeing to pay off student loans, and 101 individuals and families decided to take the offer between 2011 and 2012. Most of these transplants work in healthcare, finance, construction, social work, and other industries that so often dwindle in more remote areas of the country.
Because the unfortunate recession seems to be hitting Michigan harder than most, narrowing things down to one individual city needing college graduates in particular is rather impossible. Especially since the Let’s Save Michigan campaign exists to do just that for the entire state rather than a specific area like Detroit or Lansing. Participants from all over stand as advocates for their particular city or town, sharing their stories and discussing what all needs doing in order to turn Michigan’s luck around. Both redevelopment and education, the initiative touts, hold the key to forging a viable, sustainable solution that brings in young professionals with college degrees. It just needs the input and assistance of the citizenry to forge forward and rebuild damaged communities.