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Is Virginia Exporting More College Graduates than Importing? (Maybe, but Enough to Get Our Attention)

Nov 8, 2021, 09:52 AM

Laura Osberger:
(804) 387-5191 (cell)

November 8, 2021

For immediate release

RICHMOND — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), in conjunction with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, released analysis of net migration of college graduates. Net migration is the difference between the number of people who moved to Virginia minus the number who moved out.

According to an analysis of 2019 survey data, more mid-career bachelor’s degree holders, regardless of where they earned their degree, moved out of Virginia than moved to Virginia. VEDP found that in 2019 Virginia’s net migration for this group was -7,271. When accounting for the margin of error however, that number could be as high as + 3,063 or as low as -17,605. Mid-career, defined as between 25 and 54 years-old, are valuable to businesses due to their skills and experience. Out-of-state employers might recruit these workers, jeopardizing Virginia’s own economic development strategies and the Commonwealth’s goal of 70% of working-aged adults having earned a postsecondary degree or credential.

A second analysis of administrative data (no margin of error) looked only at graduates of Virginia institutions and found that 9% of in-state students moved away from the Commonwealth after earning a Bachelor’s degree. In contrast, 17% of out-of-state students, who graduated from a four-year institution in Virginia, stayed in Virginia. This accompanying tool allows users to explore mobility by institution, degree level, program, race/ethnicity, and gender.

The survey trends also vary from year to year. Just the previous year, in 2018, Virginia had a positive net migration of +7,535, with a margin of error producing an upper estimate of +15,430, and a lower estimate of -360. In the 15 years analyzed by VEDP, only three had negative net migration of this group. So while  on one hand it’s concerning that two of those negative net migration years were in the last four years, over the 15-year span, 49,000 more mid-career bachelor’s degree holders moved to Virginia than left. VEDP’s analysis also suggests that net mobility of younger college graduates, ages 25-34, have been declining the last 20 years. The margins of error are greater, however, due to a smaller sample size.
Net Migration

These results could be an isolated incident or the start of a longer-term trend. Either way, SCHEV and other agencies are paying close attention to this information and taking steps to retain the talent in Virginia. Read the full analysis for more detailed information and the initiatives in place to address them.

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