Editorial: College partnerships key to economic development in Connecticut

 A University of Connecticut graduate walks at a 2007 graduation ceremony in Gampel Pavilion (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

A University of Connecticut graduate walks at a 2007 graduation ceremony in Gampel Pavilion (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

One of the biggest problems facing Connecticut economically is the departure of people from the state. U.S. census data shows a steady exodus of millennials leaving Connecticut in recent years. There are some positive signs in the data, however. Looking at UConn specifically, studies demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of in-state graduates who have found jobs (not necessarily in Connecticut) have stayed in the state. This is good for several reasons. Obviously, people staying in Connecticut can contribute to revenues. Furthermore, a high number of college-educated graduates in the state will help attract companies.

UConn is not the only college in Connecticut, however. There are about 40 in the state, with a healthy mix of public and private institutions. Having these numerous institutions work together can help improve economic prospects in Connecticut. A key area where this can happen is data sharing, specifically where former students staying in-state are concerned. In fact, the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC) began doing just that.

The group, which represents 15 private nonprofit higher education institutions in Connecticut (including Yale, Quinnipiac and Wesleyan), started sharing data on the amounts of students remaining in state after two years. This can help officials identify what kinds of people are finding/pursuing careers here. Graduates might be leaving because of a lack of work pertaining to their field of study, or possibly in spite of job availability. If the latter is the case, then companies can better target specific groups they need to fill positions. Otherwise, state officials can focus on recruiting the types of businesses that would employ those seeking opportunity elsewhere. Data can also inform decisions on whether programs/initiatives at certain colleges will be safe investments for the state. With limited money, Connecticut needs to be smart about where they invest it.

When tackling any problem, information is the best tool to have. And while colleges in Connecticut may compete for the same students and funding, they all have a vested interest in seeing the state succeed. Working together to solve the exodus issue gives everyone the best chance of fixing it. With concentrated efforts, the universities of Connecticut can play a role in helping to stabilize the state’s economic future and secure a better future for its residents. They cannot fix it alone, but having strong colleges that produce talented graduates who choose to stay in the state and work to make it better will be of great help.