Vermont Second Worst At Keeping College Graduates

by Rob Roper

The career guidance site, Zippia, recently ran a study of states and how they faired at retaining college graduates. They sampled 127,403 resumes to determine the percentage of graduates that left states for their first jobs after college. Vermont had the second worst retention record, seeing nearly 70% of our students leave the state after graduation and as they enter the job market.

Only Delaware fared worse, losing 70.69 percent. Neighbors New Hampshire and Maine, also in the bad “Top 10”, lost 64 and 59 percent respectively. Texas has the best record, retaining over 80% of its graduates.

The main reasons for young people’s decisions to move are, not surprisingly, employment opportunities and, a little surprising at first but less so upon reflection, “love.” The two factors are related. Not only does the graduate need a job, his or her love interest needs a job too. Preferably a career.

Another factor working against Vermont is the number of out-of-state students we take into our public colleges. “Vermont admits 2,062 out-of-state students to its public colleges and sends 622 students to other states’ public colleges.” Most public colleges cater to in-state students, and students tend to return to (or stay in) their home states after graduation.

This reveals two failings of our K-12 system, one in quality and one in cost.

First, according to a legislative study done by the University of Vermont, “the high school graduation rate for Vermont was … 92.5% in 2012-13, well above the national average of … 81.0% in 2012-13. But, Vermont tends to produce a low level of high school graduates who continue on to postsecondary education or other programs that develop higher-level skills. In 2013, the national postsecondary enrollment rate immediately after graduating was 66%, while in Vermont it was 52%.”

We would probably have a better college graduate retention rate if we generated more local graduates with less dependence upon out of state students. However, the K-12 system is failing to prepare high school kids to succeed at the college level. That needs to change.

The second issue is that Vermont does not support our public colleges financially. According to the legislative study, “Vermont ranks 49th in terms of total state fiscal support for higher education,” and “… only 35% of low-income students enrolled in a postsecondary institution, whereas the New England average was nearly 47% in 2015.’ Moreover, “Data from the Vermont Community Foundation states that, “Vermont students and their families incur 25% more debt for a bachelor’s degree than the national average, ranking Vermont second to last in the nation for affordable education.”

This is critical because, as the Zippia study concludes, “Of the ten states that lost the greatest percentage of graduates, six of them also fund their public colleges the least.”

What does this have to do with K-12? Well, in Vermont the K-12 system and new efforts to expand pre-k programs are sucking all of the financial oxygen out of the room. We are consistently in the top five for spending on Pre-K – 12, and next to last for higher education. This is out of balance. I’m not suggesting we as a state spend more money, but it would make sense to reallocate the money we are spending.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Willem Post June 10, 2017 at 2:24 am

Federal and State Subsidies and the CEP: Vermont has had a stagnant population since about 2000 (as Europe, Japan, etc.), which is good, because more people would just cause more damage to the environment; 624,594 people at end 2015, down 1494 for the year. The following likely had something to do with this:

– A lack of business opportunities, i.e., the prospect of making a profit on investments.
– A lack of steady, full-time, good paying jobs, with good benefits.
– Near zero, real-growth of wages, household incomes, and gross state product.
– Annual increases of taxes, surcharges, fees and mandates.
– Vermont state and local governments growing faster than the excessively burdened private sector.
– Vermont economic development dominated by “government-is-the-solution” thinking.

Vermont Not a Business-Friendly State. Vermont ranks 43rd out of 50. See URL. That means the political/economic climate has been dampening the entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of increasing its ranking, left-leaning Democrat politicians have adopted an unwritten “economic development policy”: Maximize the schlepping of federal funds into Vermont to start/subsidize government programs, and start/subsidize government/business partnerships, which, as a side benefit, create a spectrum of subsidy-dependent constituencies, that produce reliable votes year after year.

These programs and partnerships usually pay too little in state and local taxes to more than offset their subsidies, i.e., provide a significant net gain. Annual government budget deficits are exacted from the near zero, real-growth private sector, by means of annual increases of taxes, fees and surcharges. The “policy” has failed to create a vibrant, growing private sector, with prosperous households and businesses, since 2000. Unless these trends are reversed, Vermont will keep its disgraceful 43rd ranking.

Vermont’s Economic Outlook: Vermont has ranked 49th since 2008, and various conditions are getting worse, not better. Whereas Shumlin has not promoted policies that would improve Vermont’s economic competitiveness ranking, smart governors in “rich states” have used the report (see URL) as a guidepost for governing.

Various Examples of the “Policy”: The goal “90% RE of All Primary Energy by 2050” is an example of the “policy”. It aims to maximize the flow of federal subsidies into the state to create subsidized RE programs and projects. Other examples of the “policy” are:

– The sordid, corrupt EB-5 program, with Vermont having the largest EB-5 fraud in the US.
– The $20 million, money-losing, CO2-emitting, Montpelier District Heating Plant, 100% financed with taxpayer money, i.e., zero amortizing cost to the project, because it was paid for with government cash grants.
– The $200-million, still-not-working, healthcare website.
– The single-payer plan, using the Medicare funds of seniors to subsidized healthcare for favored, ”underserved” Medicaid constituencies.

Millionaires’ RE Delights: In-state and out-of-state multi-millionaires, often hiding their identities behind innocent-sounding LLCs, investing in the larger RE projects, are making out like bandits. They enjoy multiple, risk-free, lucrative, 20- to 25-year, RE tax shelters, while laughing all the way to the bank, because all is paid for, via ever-higher taxes, fees and surcharges, by already-struggling Vermont households and businesses, trying to make ends meet with stagnant and declining real incomes, in the near zero, real-growth Vermont economy.

In accordance with the “policy”, most legislators habitually vote the party line for subsidized RE and other programs. Most of them likely do not understand all the implications. Even some engineers have trouble deciphering the arcane DPS and PSB rules and regulations.

Most legislators likely are aware of the dismal economic and socially divisive outcomes of the RE scenarios of the past 6 years, especially after repeatedly hearing about the hardships of Vermonters, who’s only “feel-good reward” is suffering the adversities of wind and solar projects on destroyed pristine ridgelines and in fertile meadows, plus paying for it all.


Mark Shepard June 10, 2017 at 6:18 am

It seems to conclude that the solution is raising the amount of taxpayer money that goes to state colleges and universities. But that seems to ignore other factors, most especially opportunity. States that have more opportunities in jobs were a college degree really matters, have a much larger tax base and so have more ways to get tax dollars to give to state education. So it would seem to me that the starting point is not to simply throw more money at state education, but to change policies to encourage a more entrepreneurial environment – low, flat tax policy, simple and clean regulatory environment (the less red tape the better), energy policy that pushes costs down, etc … and the rest will follow.


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