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Where We Get Our College Grads

May 18, 2018

Some interesting new data was released earlier this week that sheds some light on what institutions provide Kansas City with degreed workers. The data  from EMSI, available via the Wall Street Journal, shows that the Kansas City metro tends to draw recent college graduates from a wide area in the Midwest.

Topping the list is our very own UMKC. Over 60 percent of UMKC graduates stay in the Kansas City area. The metro also attracts a third of KU graduates, a quarter of K-State graduates and about 16 percent of Mizzou graduates. Missouri State is also a key contributor, with 13 percent of its graduates moving to Kansas City after earning their degrees.

Although the shares are smaller, the region also draws a significant number of graduates from regional schools like Creighton, Iowa State, Nebraska, Wichita State and Drake.

KC College Migration

For comparison, let’s look at Indianapolis, a metro that is similar in size and economic performance to Kansas City. In terms of attracting people with degrees, Indy dominates the state (and there are a lot of colleges and universities in Indiana), but it does not have a significant influx from other states.

IND College Migration just map

Contrast these two maps with the Dallas-Ft. Worth map below. Like Kansas City and Indianapolis, Dallas is a major draw for graduates from nearby colleges and universities; however, Dallas also is a big draw from graduates from a much larger area as well.  Granted, Dallas has a much larger economy than Kansas City and Indianapolis, but it does say something that they are able to attract degree holders in larger numbers from a much larger area. Dallas’ economy is creating a lot of jobs. For the year ending in March 2018, it added over 100,000 jobs, while Kansas City and Indianapolis added 16,600 and 19,200 jobs, respectively.

Dallas College Migration just map

Clearly, a larger, growing economy will provide more job options to graduates as they begin their careers. They will also be willing to move across the country to take advantage of these options.

While the comparisons to other metros are interesting, we think the biggest takeaway here is how important the ties to the local colleges and universities are to the Kansas City region’s workforce and economy. We may feel that Kansas City’s dynamic economy would be the best choice for recent grads from anywhere in the country, but the fact is, the vast majority of new grads entering our labor force will be from regional schools. Even in places like Dallas, Seattle or San Jose that draw graduates from farther away, the majority come from closer schools.

This is why initiatives that bring industry and education together to discuss workforce needs and challenges, like the Talent-to-Industry Exchange, are so important. We need to make sure that the colleges and universities that send the most graduates to the Kansas City metro offer degree programs that align well with the industries that drive our regional economy.

Through KC Rising, GradForce KC and other regional initiatives, we are seeing an unprecedented level of collaboration between the region’s businesses and educational institutions. Building up our human capital is vital for the region to thrive in today’s talent-based economy.

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