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Columbus prime market for college student retention

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Press Release wroteResearch find Columbus prime market for college student retention effort

The Columbus Foundation President Douglas F. Kridler announced the results of a new study completed by Collegia today, aimed at helping the community leverage one of the region’s greatest assets—area college students and young professionals who are the future workforce of Columbus.

The study is part of the Columbus College Student Engagement + Retention Project, a regional initiative to attract, engage and persuade more area college students and young professionals to remain in the Columbus area and launch their professional career in Central Ohio.

“This research effort has brought leaders together from all sectors of the community together-academia, government, business, civic, and philanthropy,” said Kridler, who leads the Tourism, Entertainment and the Arts Cluster of CompeteColumbus.” Investing in community strategies to keep young people who are already here has the potential to bolster our competitive position.”

Last summer that Tourism, Entertainment and the Arts Cluster of CompeteColumbus, the economic development effort organized by the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and The Columbus Partnership, commissioned this research as part of its effort to make the most of the temporary presence of the enormous pool of the students who visit our region every year for college. “It just doesn’t make sense to have one of the largest concentrations of college students anywhere in America, and not let them know we are glad they are here and hope they stay,” said Kridler.

Collegia, a consulting firm from Wellesley, Massachusetts, managed the research, conducting face-to-face interviews with just under 50 students enrolled at Capital University, Columbus College of Art and Design, Denison University, Kenyon College, The Ohio State University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Otterbein College. Collegia also acquired 1,700 more data points via an online student survey.

“College students are too often an under-utilized economic and social force in their community,” said Todd Hoffman, president of Collegia, which has conducted similar studies in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. “Columbus has the potential to retain more students after graduation by taking several existing programs and increasing the scale of those efforts.”

According to Hoffman, this study reveals that area students generally felt more of a recruiting presence from other cities like Chicago, with no real invite or incentive to stay linked to Columbus. Forty-three percent of students contacted had a positive perception of Columbus and would be likely to stay after graduation. However they are actually leaving in larger numbers than expected, suggests Hoffman, not due to lack of job opportunities, but because they are not sufficiently courted to remain.

Collegia has identified the following key goals as part of a framework to engage this vital market:

– Stronger connections between enrolled students and local employers

– More Columbus graduates remaining in the Columbus region

– Better overall student experiences both personally and professionally

– Enhanced perception of the region among students and young professionals

– Higher levels and quality of students enrolled locally

– Improved college education levels attained across the region

“To compete in today’s knowledge-based economy, cities have to become magnets for talented, college-educated workers. And given the number of world class companies with headquarters in the region, its very large and diverse college student population, and fantastic cultural and entertainment offerings,” Hoffman added. “Columbus has all the right ingredients necessary to become the Austin, Portland, or Boulder of the Midwest. This should be the place new college graduates and ambitious young professionals flock to.”

With economists estimating that 85 percent of jobs created in the next ten years will require a B.A. or better, colleges and universities are often taking center stage in local economic development plans. More than 120,000 students are currently enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the region, giving area businesses access to a highly educated workforce that can contribute to the local economy and the workforce.

In response to this research, The CompeteColumbus Board is currently developing a college student engagement and retention effort for the Central Ohio region.

Related Story:

An Overlooked Asset: 100,000 Students in Columbus

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