Louisiana ranks 17th for retaining college graduates

A recent “brain drain” analysis of how many college graduates stay in the state where they studied has both good news and bad news for Louisiana, depending on how you want to look at it.

The study compares the number of college grads produced in a state versus the number living in that state and finds that Louisiana loses almost 20% more graduates than it attracts and retains. But that’s still good enough for 17th on a scale in which only nine states and Washington, D.C., fall on the positive side of the ledger, ahead of Southern neighbors such as Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement celebrating the news while vowing “we will not settle for 17th.”

“We have the lowest unemployment rate in state history, and we have created nearly 200,000 jobs since the worst of the COVID pandemic,” he says. “It is gratifying to see so many Louisiana college graduates choosing to stay right here to begin their careers and to know that we are outpacing many other states, especially in the South.”

The nation’s capital, which produces relatively few graduates, ranks first with a gain of more than 300%, compared to second-place Colorado’s 40.5%, according to the analysis by economists at the University of North Carolina, the W.E. Upjohn Institute, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. States with major cities tend to rank high, and Georgia (plus 14.5%) and Texas (plus 10.4%) are the only Southern or Southwestern states that attract and retain more than they lose.

About half of recent college graduates are living and working in the metro area nearest the institution they attended and about 67% remain in that state, the researchers found.

This story originally appeared in a Sept. 13 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.