As Marquette seniors start to plan for post-graduation, one of the big questions they think about is where they’ll end up.
But as it turns out, it’s likely they won’t be in Wisconsin.
In a 2013 survey, 46 percent of the alumni polled stayed in the state of Wisconsin one year after graduation. Five years after graduation, that number dropped to 42 percent.
That underscores a larger trend in Wisconsin, which is losing its college graduates every year in what is known as “brain drain.”
The majority of people who choose to stay and work in Wisconsin after graduation from Marquette are from the state of Wisconsin. Of the people who went to high school in the state of Wisconsin, 76 percent stayed in Wisconsin after college. Five years later, that number drops to 64 percent.
The second-most popular destination for Marquette graduates is Illinois, with about 20 percent of Marquette graduates moving to Illinois one year after graduation.
In a study done by Morris Davis at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s school of business, Wisconsin lost an average of 14,000 degreed graduates per year between 2008 and 2012. Of those lost, 9,000 each year were recent graduates aged 21 to 25.
As a result, Wisconsin’s population is aging. Destination states like Illinois and Minnesota, although they are losing adults with degrees, are getting younger overall.
Compared to other states in the Midwest, that’s pretty good. Illinois is losing just over 19,000 graduates per year and Michigan is losing over 46,000 graduates per year.
There are several factors to why people are abandoning Wisconsin after they graduate.
Julie Granger, vice president of the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said that migration of college graduates depends on what career students are choosing.
“Milwaukee has a lot of manufacturing industry, so there is a high average of engineers that do tend to stay, but it’s hard to say,” Granger said.
Benton Davies, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he wants to leave the state because he is getting a job all the way in Silicon Valley, California.
“I’m leaving because my industry is not at its height in Wisconsin,” Davies said.
Allyson Azar, also a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, is in the same boat.
“I love the state of Wisconsin, and ultimately think it’s a great place to return to have a family when I’m older,” Azar said. “But as for after graduation, I am interested in international affairs research and policy work. For the very few job opportunities here, there are hundreds of options on the East Coast and in larger cities such as New York or Chicago.”
Laura Kestner, director of the Career Services Center, said that students going directly to graduate school will typically leave the state. She tells students that meet with her in the career center that graduate school is a great time to go and explore.
“My philosophy is that when you are young you don’t have a lot of ties holding you back, you don’t have a mortgage, you don’t have kids. That’s the time to go out and experience the world and see what’s out there,” Kestner said. “You can go out and get a job anywhere, you can always go home. It makes students more appreciative to go home.”
Kestner said that she is aware of the brain drain but says that she is an advocate for the students.
“If you tell me that you want a particular career field or career goal, I’m going to present to you what your options are and what your opportunities are,” Kestner said. “If that has to do with leaving the state that’s what I’m going to do.”
Kestner said nobody from the university has asked her to try to keep graduates in the state.
“I think the biggest problem is that they just can’t find enough skilled workers,” Kestner said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the brain drain and losing them to other states. I think that the issue is that we need to educate the students to what employers want.”
Kestner said she thinks the solution comes with improving opportunities for people in the city, particularly for people of color.
“Milwaukee can be a pretty tough city if you don’t live downtown and don’t have a car,” she said. “It’s not a transportation friendly place, and this is a city issue.”