by Kevin McLaughlin
As a rising senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, I find that there is one thing at the forefront of my mind, and the minds of all my fellow classmates who are entering their final year of college: post-graduation plans.
The mere mention of those three words causes stress and anxiety levels to skyrocket amongst many college seniors. The significance that those in college place on post-grad plans can be discerned through the fact that, according to a major annual survey of incoming students conducted by UCLA, the number one reason that people attend college is to “get a better job,” which has superseded the former number one reason, which, before 2006, was to “learn about things that interest me.”
Disregarding the question of whether this shift is a positive or negative one, the fact remains that college students today are overwhelmingly preoccupied with securing their futures. Despite this, college students are struggling to find the good jobs that they desire. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, nearly half of new college graduates are underemployed, which means that they are working in jobs that do not require a Bachelor’s degree.
If college students care more than ever about getting a job after graduation, then why are they struggling to find good jobs in a relatively strong economy? The disjunction here is apparent. Many potential factors can explain this disconnect, but one that I find prevalent on my campus is that all rising seniors seem to want to work in the same select few cities.
When you ask the average college student at Holy Cross where he or she would like to work post-graduation, the answer is almost always one of two locations: Boston or New York City. Sometimes you will hear answers that are as exotic as Washington D.C., San Francisco, or Chicago, but places more obscure than these are rarely, if ever, considered by the vast majority of Holy Cross students, and it seems as if this is a familiar refrain expressed across colleges throughout the northeast.
This reality is disconcerting for Connecticut because one key way to develop the Connecticut economy is to inject it with the region’s best available young talent. This will fail to happen if college students never consider Connecticut, along with its cities and towns, as a worthwhile destination for post-graduate employment.
If there is a large supply of new college graduates wishing to find good jobs, and there is demand from the Connecticut economy for these new college graduates, the question becomes how Connecticut can attract these students by marketing itself as the great job source and place to live that it is. It is about shifting the image of Connecticut from “that state in between Boston and New York City,” to a place where recent college grads will be able to thrive—in and outside of work.
With the goal of conveying some of the qualities that make Connecticut a great place to live and work for young college grads, the following are my top 5 qualities of Connecticut that should attract young workers:
- Cities – Connecticut cities such as Hartford and New Haven offer cultural attractions that young college graduates crave, but are not as large as Boston and New York City—a smaller size that allows young people to feel a more integral part of the community. Cultural attractions in Connecticut’s cities include concerts, festivals, and ballgames which, along with vibrant bars and clubs create a great nightlife.
- Nature – Immediately outside of its cities, Connecticut offers premiere natural attractions, with serene lakes and miles of hiking and walking trails, that give young people an escape into nature only minutes outside the city. Furthermore, Connecticut also has many miles of breathtaking shoreline which are a quick drive from most Connecticut towns and cities. Weekend or even day-trip getaways to lakes, mountains, or to the beach are easily accomplished in Connecticut, which creates a balance between city and country living that is unrivaled by any location proximate to downtown Boston or New York City.
- Convenient Location – In addition to being situated between Boston and New York City, with easy access to both, Connecticut provides its residents with proximity to a hassle free international airport and easy access to busses and trains. This convenience means that if you want to leave the state for any reason, there are painless ways to get anywhere across the country, and the globe.
- Affordable Rents – Connecticut offers housing that is far more affordable than that found in either New York City or Boston. This is evidenced by the statistic that, according to the apartment listing website Rent Jungle, the average one-bedroom apartment in Boston rents for $2703 a month, while the average one-bedroom apartment in Hartford rents for only $1291 a month. This significantly lower rent gives recent college graduates more available capital to spend on cultural attractions, and to pay back student loans!
- Opportunities to Give Back – Connecticut offers its recent grads great opportunities to volunteer and improve the lives of people around the state. Since Connecticut is home to many small cities and towns, young volunteers can have a real, tangible impact in those communities. This is a significant social impact that they cannot as easily access in big cities such as Boston and New York.
If Connecticut can successfully market itself as an ideal place for recent college graduates, a more significant portion of those graduates will move to Connecticut towns and cities, which will in turn promote economic growth, leading to more opportunities. It is a path dependent process, meaning that once a more significant portion of young people settles in Connecticut, the culture will shift, and more young people will follow. Now, it is imperative to get the ball rolling.
Kevin McLaughlin of Farmington will be a senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA this fall. This piece first ran as a blog post on the website of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), where he is interning this summer. It is reprinted with permission.