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Study: Region Losing High School, College Graduates

September 27, 2019
Forty-eight percent of high school and college graduates in northeast Indiana are no longer in the region five years after graduation, analyses released by Northeast Indiana Works show.
Most other regions in the state, according to the analyses, have higher percentages.
 “Nevertheless, the data indicates the need in northeast Indiana to not only continue to encourage talent to return to the region after going away and presumably acquiring skills but also to retain college-informed talent and utilize their knowledge to help companies and the economy prosper,” said Northeast Indiana Works President Edmond O’Neal.
The data was compiled by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development using information from the Indiana Management Performance Hub. In determining the movements of high school and college graduates, a graduate was considered in northeast Indiana if that person had a college enrollment or covered employment wage record in the region. The data included all Indiana public high school and college enrollments and some private school enrollments.
In both the high school and college data, the specific in-state locations of small percentages of graduates could not be accounted for because they worked for a multi-county establishment or they were tied to Purdue University Polytechnic statewide. Out-of-state locations were not determined.     
Among the findings of an analysis of 2012-2013 graduates:
  • Five years after graduating high school in 2012-2013 in northeast Indiana (Economic Growth Region 3), 3,849 graduates were not in the region – or 46.12 percent of all graduates. Marion County, which includes Indianapolis and is identified as Economic Growth Region 12, topped the list of Indiana places where non-returning graduates landed, followed by Economic Growth Region 2, which is comprised of Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties. The percentage of high school graduates no longer in the region five years later is fairly consistent dating to 2008-2009. Post-graduation intervals earlier than five years were not considered; most graduates who went away to college would generally not be expected to return that quickly.     
  • One-, three- and five-year intervals were considered for 2012-2013 college graduates. The data shows a gradual increase in departures over time. Of the 3,033 graduates of northeast Indiana colleges, 931 (30.70 percent) were not in the region one year after graduation, 1,427 (47.05 percent) were not in the region three years after graduation, and 1,628 (53.68 percent) were not in the region five years after graduation. Gradual increases in departures over time were also evident for graduating classes dating to 2008-2009. Again, Region 12 and Region 2 were popular landing spots for college graduates.
  • The combined total of high school and college graduates out of the region five years after graduation is 48.13 percent.
An analysis of 2016-2017 graduates showed:
  • A majority of high school graduates who stay become employed. Of the 5,287 who were still in the region one year after their 2016-2017 graduation, 3,135 (59.30 percent) were employed, 1,291 (24.42 percent) were enrolled in college and employed, and 861 (16.29 percent) were enrolled only.
  • The majority of those who graduate from northeast Indiana colleges and stay also become employed. Of the 1,918 college graduates who were still in the region one year after their 2016-2017 graduation, 1,351 (70.44 percent) were employed, 295 (15.38 percent) had enrolled for additional college instruction, and 272 (14.18 percent) were both employed and had enrolled for additional college learning.  
Despite the eventual departure of nearly 50 percent of 2012-2013 high school and college graduates, several bright notes did emerge from the analyses. The 11-county northeast Indiana region had the second lowest percentage in Indiana of high school graduates who were not the region from which they graduated five years earlier (46.12 percent) and the second lowest percentage of college students who were not in the region from which they graduated five years earlier (53.68 percent). There are 12 economic growth regions in the state.
Averaging all economic growth regions in Indiana, 63.56 percent of high school and college graduates were no longer in the region from which they graduated five years earlier. 
“One thing the data doesn’t show is why college graduates leave northeast Indiana or high school graduates don’t return,” O’Neal said, “and that is certainly something worth continuing to explore and remedy. It is also important that we continue to improve efforts to bring new talent to the area.”
O’Neal noted numerous efforts are underway in northeast Indiana to develop, attract and retain talent, including sector partnerships between education and business; internship programs for students; externship programs for teachers; training programs for new and incumbent workers, and quality-of-place initiatives. Northeast Indiana recently was named the first 21st Century Talent Region in the state and will be tracking progress on talent development, attraction and retention goals.

(Read the Journal Gazette editorial.)
After successfully completing assessments, WorkOne Northeast gave me the financial support necessary to obtain my Commercial Driver’s License. I now own my own rig and I went from a $10-an-hour job to one paying $52,000 a year, allowing me to better support my family. Without WorkOne, I don’t know where I’d be.
Michael Eagans