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Many college graduates stay in Utah

Family, quality of life keep 71% of natives in the state

Deseret Morning News graphic

Although there are fewer quality jobs and salaries are comparatively lower in this state, most Utah college graduates are choosing to stay here, according to a report by the Utah Foundation.

The report released Tuesday shows that 71 percent of "home-grown" students who graduate from public and private colleges in Utah are staying close to home.

"This shows that the investment in Utah higher education is a sound one," said Amanda Covington, spokeswoman for the Utah System of Higher Education. "It's great news that students are choosing to stay."

Utah Foundation executive director Stephen Kroes said one reason native students stay here after graduation is to be close to family. Graduates also stay because of Utah's recreational opportunities, "nice" communities and low cost of living, all quality-of-life issues.

"I think we're looking very attractive," Kroes added.

Then there's the 43 percent of out-of-state students — they often pay three times the rate of in-state tuition — who decide to stay upon graduation.

Why?

In other states showing increases in growth rates and the number of available jobs, the cost of living tends to be higher, according to Kroes.

"Utah looks even more attractive as far as affordability and quality of life go," he said.

Despite a lower cost of living here, the reasons graduates leave are mostly economic, Kroes said.

Of the 29 percent of Utah natives who do leave after graduation, the reasons cited in the report include fewer quality job opportunities, low wage and salary levels and weak networks for finding jobs, which Kroes attributes to a weak connection between graduates and alumni.

And most students who choose to pursue a post-graduate degree in areas like dentistry, law and medicine are leaving Utah, according to the report.

To stem the flow of graduates and post-graduates who do leave, the report points out Utah would need to foster an economy that offers more higher-paying jobs and provide more opportunities for an advanced education.

The non-profit foundation's report is based on a survey of 2004 graduates. The goal was to determine if Utah is experiencing a "brain drain." It also helped answer the question of whether the state is losing money by spending state funds on students who leave after graduating.

"We find that doesn't appear to be the case," Kroes said. "That means we're getting a pretty big bang for our buck."


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com