Philadelphia is leading nationally in college graduate retention growth rates, according to a new report that shows the city’s “brain drain” dilemma is now firmly in the past.
The upward trend became notable with the 2010 Census, and has accelerated since then. Since the turn of the millennium, the number of college-educated 25-to 34-year-olds in Philadelphia has jumped 155%, per the report, far outpacing the city’s overall 4% population growth.
Philly’s growth in young adult degree-holders beats Denver, Washington, D.C., and Seattle by over 15 percentage points, according to the study, and more than doubles the rate of traditional college towns like Boston (77%), Chicago (62%), or New York (59%).
The new analysis was released Thursday by Campus Philly, a nonprofit that works to increase college retention and help students fall in love with and find meaningful careers in Philadelphia.
“Our region’s talent is one of its greatest assets and opportunities,” said Sarah Steltz, vice president of economic competitiveness at Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, which partnered on the report. “As demonstrated in this report, the growth of Philadelphia’s talent pool — and the desire of students to live and work in Philadelphia after graduation.”
Keeping more people with college degrees is considered desirable in part because of its economic benefit. In general, degree-holders usually make more money, and therefore produce more tax revenue.
Average 25-to-34-year-old bachelor’s degree holders in Philadelphia earn 90% more than people with some college credit but no degree, per the report, and 135% more than people with high school diplomas.
Philadelphia is ranked among the top in STEM career paths
Philly continues to show strength in STEM career paths. The region is ranked among the top 10 markets in the U.S. for life sciences, specifically in the cell and gene therapy sector, according to the Campus Philly report..
With higher education institutes like the University of the Sciences, Drexel University, and the University of Pennsylvania, plus many labs and incubators, the city ranked third overall, behind Boston and San Francisco.
Philadelphia is also gaining momentum as a top market in the tech sector, but currently sits at No. 12. However, the city does have a couple of characteristics that make it desirable for the technology industry: a developing talent pool, lower cost of doing business, and proximity to other national tech hubs, according to the report.
How can the city maintain its college graduate retention rate?
Right now the 25-to-34 age group is the largest cohort in the city, and there’s been an increase of more than 180,000 degree holders in Philadelphia since 2000, per the report.
But that’s not necessarily going to continue. Gen Z is a smaller generation than millennials. Not only have higher education institutions seen a drop in enrollment, but there’s a potential to cause labor shortages if the city doesn’t refine its current retention efforts.
The report outlines specific ways of mitigating this through three specific methods: building local talent, retaining talent, and attracting talent.
The effort to grow college graduate retainment rates would require collaboration, the report explains, “bringing together a diverse coalition of regional organizations spanning post-secondary access, higher education, workforce development, and talent attraction.”