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Columbus prime market for college student retention

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Press Release wrote Research 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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16 Responses to Columbus prime market for college student retention

  1. TimFitz May 14, 2008 9:59 pm at 9:59 pm

    I was at the CMC forum today where all of this information was presented for the first time. It was a really thought-provoking session and the first Forum I had ever visited! I had no idea that Columbus is second only to Boston with College students in the metro area per-capita. It will be sweet to see where this goes from here and I hope to be a part of it.

  2. Coremodels
    Coremodels May 15, 2008 6:52 am at 6:52 am

    I’d love to get a copy of this research and/or a more complete story on it. NBC 4 ran a blurb about it earlier, with a copy of what looked like the report in the background…and under the section of covering “why students are leaving” it had a numbered list with “transportation” as number 2…

  3. JohnWirtz May 15, 2008 7:57 am at 7:57 am

    Coremodels wrote I’d love to get a copy of this research and/or a more complete story on it. NBC 4 ran a blurb about it earlier, with a copy of what looked like the report in the background…and under the section of covering “why students are leaving” it had a numbered list with “transportation” as number 2…

    Interesting. What was #1?

  4. Coremodels
    Coremodels May 15, 2008 8:10 am at 8:10 am

    JohnWirtz wrote
    Coremodels wrote I’d love to get a copy of this research and/or a more complete story on it. NBC 4 ran a blurb about it earlier, with a copy of what looked like the report in the background…and under the section of covering “why students are leaving” it had a numbered list with “transportation” as number 2…

    Interesting. What was #1?

    LOL…not sure, happened so quick, but these days my eyes are glued for “transit” or “public transportation” ;)

  5. gramarye
    gramarye May 15, 2008 8:23 am at 8:23 am

    Can I suggest Occam’s Razor’s answer?

    Jobs.

  6. surber17 May 15, 2008 9:05 am at 9:05 am

    Coremodels wrote
    JohnWirtz wrote
    Coremodels wrote I’d love to get a copy of this research and/or a more complete story on it. NBC 4 ran a blurb about it earlier, with a copy of what looked like the report in the background…and under the section of covering “why students are leaving” it had a numbered list with “transportation” as number 2…

    Interesting. What was #1?

    LOL…not sure, happened so quick, but these days my eyes are glued for “transit” or “public transportation” ;)

    Ha, same here. I tend to jump on any chance we have to show people why we need it.

  7. TimFitz May 15, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am

    My notes from the meeting give these as the top-four reasons as discovered by the company Collegia from Boston. The guy who runs the company went through most of the data via Powerpoint. I believe they did face-to-face sampling on all the campuses in Central Ohio, and then followed it up with online sampling of other students. All told, it was like 1,700 students:

    1. “If Only I Knew…”

    Students claimed that they didn’t really know what was going on around Columbus or didn’t know how great the big-ticket items are aka the Zoo, or Cosi or Balletmet, etc. During the Q&A one Ohio State student said on the contrary, he and his friends got too MUCH information and needed a way to digest it all. Or students say they always found about things they would have enjoyed after it was over. The man from Collegia gave examples from their work in Philly with the “One Big Campus” campaign and you can check out some of the websites here:

    http://www.onebigcampus.com

    2. Transportation

    I don’t think this is a big surprise here, but he did say that in cities with a Subway almost no students use the subway. Instead, he said that the thing students claimed the most about going downtown, no joke, was having to parallel park :shock:. Students said they like going to the mall because it is predictable and they can park easily. For campuses like Ohio Weslyan and Otterbein in particular they had what they called the “Otterbein Triangle” for entertainment: Polaris, Easton and Ohio State.

    3. Internships

    The big opportunity here. Websites like http://www.columbusinternships.com are beginning to bridge the gap between students and jobs in the city. The idea is that more student internships get students into areas that they have never been before, with adults who are settled in Columbus and that it really pulls them into the community. Plus, internships can lead to paid jobs at graduation. He mentioned that small companies, places with between 2 – 50 employees could really help by looking for interns. I check out the website last night and was pumped to see the Skreened had a listing!

    4. Other

    Many students in Columbus say that this is their “first city experience” and that we can capitalize on the “Big City Small Town” feel as described in Rebecca Ryan’s Young Professionals research. Everything that they discovered in the study leads to a disconnect between the city and college students and that Columbus should make it easier for them to extend into the community.

    He really drove the point home that this generation likes to choose WHERE they want to live and then find a job there. That location comes before occupation. He then went on to say that studies show the #1 way that people decide where to live is based on a visit; either for tourism or a convention or something. Columbus should think of these college students on an extended visit and show them why they should live here.

    There you have it folks, discuss!

  8. columbus May 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am

    This is based on my opinion and not research, but I believe that “where first, job second” is very true. “Where” translates into ‘sexy place’ or, more likely, ‘city worthy of me and my talents’. That also goes for companies that decide on their location too, and it’s not just based on tax incentives. More than any factor, who you are is where you live. I wish this group the best.

  9. Columbusite May 15, 2008 1:17 pm at 1:17 pm

    We all know why CSCC and CCAD aren’t crazy about their part of Downtown, so anything the city can to change that if possible would be nice. I’m still holding out for a plaza enclosed by buildings (accessible only to pedestrians) over there.

    You want to keep students in the city? This is what you do. (pardon the amateurness, it’s crude but gets the point across)

    Before

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3236/2494480711_72cc994e0e.jpg?v=0

    After

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2296/2494480737_1a4765d9e8.jpg?v=0

  10. Motorist
    Motorist May 15, 2008 1:25 pm at 1:25 pm

    I don’t know that having all your buildings face into themselves is the best way to engage the city.

  11. Columbusite May 15, 2008 2:58 pm at 2:58 pm

    If you’ve been anywhere like it you can see that it works. Cafes and ice cream shops with their tables spilling out into the plaza, a nice fountain, trees/bushes, no cars or parking in sight. It’s an outdoor room where you could forget you’re surrounded by a sea of parking and are instead surrounded by architecturally pleasing buildings, much like the cap makes you forget there’s a highway right underneath you.

  12. Walker Evans
    Walker May 16, 2008 9:08 am at 9:08 am

    The Dispatch wrote City aims to halt grads’ exodus

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    BY NICQUEL TERRY

    College students leave Columbus after they graduate because there’s not enough information on job opportunities and other local resources, a survey suggests.

    A Web site that will collect that information in one place could help change that, city business leaders say.

    “We are building a communication bridge,” said Todd Hoffman, president of Collegia, a Massachusetts-based company hired by local business leaders to retain more of the talent attracted to local colleges.

    Almost half of 1,725 college students surveyed by Collegia said they would leave the city because their job prospects were in other cities. Most of the students surveyed attend Ohio State University, Otterbein College or the Columbus College of Art & Design.

    READ MORE

  13. JohnWirtz May 16, 2008 9:12 am at 9:12 am

    Almost half of 1,725 college students surveyed by Collegia said they would leave the city because their job prospects were in other cities.

    Over half staying in Columbus actually sounds pretty good to me. How does that compare to other cities? I don’t think we can expect to retain 100% or even 75%. People are going to move around, especially when they’re getting their first job. Sometimes people, especially young people, move just to do something different, even if everything in a city is good.

  14. Walker Evans
    Walker May 16, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am

    What is usually missing from these reports is the number of imports we’re getting. Many college students graduate and leave for work or other reasons, but I think half the people I know aren’t originally from Columbus and moved here post-graduation, usually for a job.

    The more retention we have the better, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re already breaking even.

  15. gramarye
    gramarye May 16, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am

    Yeah, I’d be interested in seeing the “net” figures, too … particularly if they’re available in a format that could display them over time. That would show if Columbus has managed to make itself a more attractive career destination city for students graduating elsewhere.

    I lost a fair amount of my OSU friends to Washington, DC and Chicago. We might be doing the same thing to other cities (in which case it’s not brain drain so much as cross-pollination, which is much less threatening). However, much as I love Columbus and was a cheerleader for it for three years at an East Coast law school and look forward to the chance to come back someday (Canton is a lot farther at $3.95/gallon than at $2.50), I still don’t think it’s managed to build that career-destination mojo beyond the local level. By “local,” I mean that we can attract plenty of people from regional colleges like Bowling Green, Ohio, Miami (OH), Kent State, Wright State, and so on, which certainly bolsters the number of college grads we’ve got living here beyond those we produce locally and retain. However, I don’t think we’re getting a steady stream of grads from Notre Dame, Chicago, Northwestern, DePaul, Purdue, and other schools in that region … and that’s not even all that far. In other words, Chicago is still getting more out of us than we’re getting out of them. We’re making up for it not with people drawn here from there, but with people drawn here from schools in our own more localized hinterland.

    Of course, the numbers really aren’t bad for Columbus even now, and they do seem to be getting better (hence why I’d be interested in seeing how they’ve changed over time, rather than just a one-year snapshot).

  16. UncommonSense
    UncommonSense May 16, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm

    Motorist wrote I don’t know that having all your buildings face into themselves is the best way to engage the city.

    Yeah, I’ve heard Madrid is planning to tear down the Plaza Mayor for engagement purposes… :wink:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3208/2498646542_61ce69f52c.jpg

    Seriously, I’ve always thought downtown needs a plaza or town square as a gathering point for all occasions. Statehouse Lawn is alright, but there is no place for open air cafes and bustling commerce. Scioto Mile park is to elongated and spread out for what I envision. Maybe City Center can be repurposed along these lines? One can dream…. :roll:

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