posted June 15, 2011

Study Indicates Factors That Will Keep College Grads in Michigan

A newly released survey of nearly 4,000 Michigan college students has identified clear reasons why talented young people choose to leave Michigan after graduation - and what it will take to get them to stay.

The Michigan Colleges Foundation (MCF), a consortium of fourteen independent colleges anduniversities located throughout Michigan, commissioned the study in partnership with Madison, Wisconsin-based Next Generation Consulting, leaders in the field of millennial market research and talent retention. Students on MCF's Van Andel Millennial Board (VAMB) were also pivotal in the success of the survey. A 14-member student board consisting of one student from each MCF institution, VAMB students each developed their own plan for marketing the survey to students which resulted in the high number of responses.

Why - and how - do Michigan college students form their opinions about Michigan cities, what can we do to address perceptions, and reposition Michigan as a smart choice for grads and what do they value in "cool communities" were the central questions of this study.

Although 89% of students value the earning opportunities in a potential location when deciding where to live, only 11% agree that Michigan has broad enough job opportunities. Of Michigan's three major metropolitan areas - Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids - students feel the most positive about Grand Rapids.

More than half (59%) of the Michigan natives surveyed are considering staying in the state after graduation, 30% are unsure of their plans. Classified as "convincibles" the survey suggests that Michigan has the potential to retain almost 90% of native students through active engagement and peer networking efforts - critical components to influencing perceptions.

The survey indicated that successfully keeping this young talent in Michigan will depend upon the ability of businesses and learning institutions to partner together to promote to these students specific quality of life amenities such as good-paying jobs, affordable housing, easy commutes, and access to parks, bike and hiking trails, the authors of the survey conclude.

The study is phase one of MCF's Think Michigan campaign - an integrated, Michigan-focused strategy to attract, engage and retain the state's top young talent. With seed funds from the Charter One Foundation, MCF benchmarked comparable cities nationally, assessing their efforts to attract and retain talent. Three focus groups on MCF campuses were conducted and a survey was distributed to students on all 14 campuses to assess student life and career preferences, as well as perceptions of opportunities in Michigan's major urban areas. A comprehensive report was developed benchmarking Southeast Michigan to national millennial retention trends and identifying clear marketing approaches and themes.

"Our plan is to utilize this foundational study to create a targeted Michigan marketing effort at ourmember colleges and universities," said MCF President Bob Bartlett. "Connecting students in personal and meaningful ways to Michigan's future before they graduate and plan their lives elsewhere is a critical component to the state's economic growth."

The next phase of MCF's Think Michigan campaign will promote the state's urban regions with a statewide marketing campaign designed to reach a sizable population of the more than 38,000 emerging college graduates on its campuses on the brink of making "place" decisions.

The campaign will include consistent and frequent messaging to reach students through on-campus programs and city-based events and activities as well as interfacing with MCF's new "concierge" recruiting program with leading Michigan employers.

"Despite the broad recognition that young talent is critical to the state's future, few efforts have been made to market Michigan to its greatest talent source: students on its college campuses. MCF is working to engage students before they make their decisions to relocate," said Denise Christy, President of Humana Michigan and Indiana and MCF Board Chair. "The implications of this campaign will be far-reaching and will benefit all of Michigan's urban centers."

MCF will be partnering with existing organizations working in the state on talent retention and development. For more information about MCF, visit www.michigancolleges.org. For a copy of the study, click on http://www.michigancolleges.org/files/michigancolleges.org/MCF_FindingsR... . To inquire about funding or partnership opportunities for the Think Michigan campaign, call 248-356-3114.

About Michigan Colleges Foundation

Michigan Colleges Foundation (MCF) supports 14 independent colleges and universities throughout the state, leveraging the transformative power of its collective resources for Michigan's future.  Established in 1949, MCF supports operations, student scholarships and collaborative initiatives to advance excellence at its member institutions. MCF institutions collectively represent the third largest university in the state, and include: Adrian College; Albion College; Alma College; Andrews University; Aquinas College; Calvin College; Hillsdale College; Hope College; Kalamazoo College; Madonna University; Marygrove College; Olivet College; Siena Heights University; and Spring Arbor University.