Keeping Kansas college grads working in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas Board of Regents is trying to tackle a problem that has plagued Kansas for years: How do we get Kansas college graduates to take jobs here and stay here. Over the past five years, they have tracked the graduates from every college in the state, through their 10 year strategic plan, Foresight 2020. Now, the state is looking to Wichita for a possible solution to fight the brain drain.

“Looking at that data over the last 5 years, we have seen a decrease in the percent of students who are employed over time across all of the award levels,” said Breeze Richardson with the Kansas Board of Regents. “There’s actually a decline over time across every award type, so we’re not seeing a sustaining level of employment following that first year out of graduation.”

Click image to view the Foresight 2020 annual report.
Click image to view the Foresight 2020 annual report.

The news looks at every university across the state. For example, of the 2008 class from Wichita State University, 70% were employed in the state in 2009, but those numbers dropped every year, landing at 57% last year. Officials with Academic Affairs at WSU say it’s a complicated problem. “The fact that they stay here and then after five years they migrate away, means that we’re probably not addressing what they’re looking for,” said Tony Vizzini with the university. “Not in terms of what they’re looking for in working environment, but maybe in living environment.”

So the question remains: How do we retain those graduates? From the perspective of the Board of Regents, a big part of it is in partnerships with other businesses.

“A lot of that conversation right now is looking towards what internship opportunities there are with industries here in Kansas and how we might strengthen, support, and grow those types of internship programs,” said Richardson.

That’s where the view comes back to Wichita where changes—like the implementation of the Innovation Campus—can lead to stronger opportunities for recent graduates within the state. The opportunity would be unique Vizzini says, “They’re not really interns, they’re not really co-ops, they’re employees. They’re employees who also happen to be students that really do walk back and forth from class to their workplace in a matter of 5 minutes changes the framework.”

Vizzini and Richardson agree that all of this is still a work in progress to see what works best to keep students in the area. The Board of Regents will be meeting in a couple weeks to continue their discussion about the potential programs graduates that will keep them in the state.


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