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Campus Philly surveys students: Who’s staying, who’s going, and why

It’s old news that millennials are moving to Philadelphia in droves in search of jobs and new opportunities in the city. But for students who attend college here, the “should I stay or should I go” post-graduation decision has yielded different results.

The number of non-native Philadelphians who attended school in Philly and then stayed after graduation has actually decreased since 2010, according to a new report drafted by Campus Philly, but the group says the dip could be because the recession several years back caused grads across the country to simply move less.

Campus Philly released its 2014 “Choosing Philadelphia” recent graduate survey today, which outlines who’s graduating from Philly’s colleges, where they’re going and what they value in where they end up. The group surveyed 3,390 college graduates, most of whom graduated between 2011 and 2014 from schools in the Philadelphia region. Here’s what we learned:

1. Not as many non-native Philadelphians stayed after college compared to 2010.

In 2010, Campus Philly’s recent graduate survey reported that 55 percent of non-native Philadelphians who attended college here were still living in Philly at the time they took the survey. This year’s report showed that number had dropped to 42 percent.

Campus Philly CEO Deborah Diamond blamed the drop on the recession that was still lingering in 2010. That caused fewer people to move because of the sinking job market. Now that the job market has largely stabilized, it seems as though less graduates are staying in Philadelphia. But when compared to 10-year trends, the number of non-natives who are sticking around has actually increased. Campus Philly, in conjunction with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, conducted a similar survey in 2004 which showed that only 29 percent of non-natives were staying in Philadelphia post-graduation.

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Graphic via Campus Philly

2. If not Philly, they’re going to NYC or… pretty much anywhere else.

Of the college students who left the Philadelphia area after graduating, the majority of them weren’t drawn to the typical millennial hotspots, and instead fanned out across the country and the world. After Philly, the top destination for Philly’s college students was unsurprisingly New York City, where about 12 percent of respondents reported living.

But after New York, no other location garnered more than 2 percent as where respondents lived at the time of the post-graduation survey.

3. Students attending Philadelphia’s colleges were seriously involved here, and that’s probably carrying over post-graduation.

Ninety-seven percent (!) of respondents to Campus Philly’s 2014 survey said they were involved in some type of on-campus activity during their time in school — a jump from 71 percent of the respondents to the 2010 survey. Half of the respondents said they completed some type of community service during their time at school in Philly, and almost all of them reported they engaged in some type of off-campus activity at least twice a semester.

“Despite some of the tropes that you hear, the millennials and even those that are younger do see themselves as more powerful and efficacious than young people used to think of themselves,” Diamond said. “I do think there is a natural connection between the wide-ranging activity we’re seeing among college students and what they’re doing after graduation.”

That bodes well for the city’s civic-engagement groups, especially those geared toward young people. Young Involved Philadelphia recently said it saw strong growth in its annual State of Young Philly Conference, while other organizations (Philly CORE Leaders, Campus Philly, etc.) continue to report more collective power in the city.

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Graphic via Campus Philly

4. Even if they’re not staying, more college students <3 Philly.

Diamond said one of the results that was most encouraging for the city moving forward was the large increase in the number of college students who reported that they would recommend Philadelphia as a place to live. In 2010, 55 percent of respondents said they’d recommend Philadelphia as a place to live. This time around, almost three quarters of the graduates surveyed said they’d do the same.

“Many of them will choose to live here now or in the future,” Diamond said. “Regardless of where they are going, they’re going as great ambassadors.”

5. More students are using SEPTA and their own cars, while fewer than 10 percent bike.

The primary mode of transportation for students attending Philadelphia’s colleges was overwhelmingly, uh, legs — walking was how 63 percent of students primarily got around. But the number of students using SEPTA and their own cars for transportation increased compared to the 2010 survey.

This year, 50 percent of survey respondents said they used SEPTA “very often” and 46 percent said they used their cars. In 2010, those figures were 39 percent and 35 percent, respectively. The number of students who said they biked is still under 10 percent, but rose from 7 percent to 9 percent in the last four years.

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