Students contemplate relocation after graduation

Andrew Justus

In his eight years with the Grand Valley State University Career Services Office, Troy Farley has worked with students with a diversity of ambitions. Some want to work in business, some want to work in government, but unfortunately for Michigan, a sizeable number of college grads just want to work somewhere else.

Their reasons vary from perceived economic opportunity, friends and spouses or even disdain of the state’s hectic weather patterns, said Farley, director of the Career Services Office. According to Michigan State University data, 49 percent of that university’s 2007 graduates departed the mitten for greener pastures.

“We feel we can provide the most help to those staying in Michigan the most … We try to help students that leave be prepared too,” he said.

Career Services has many connections and networking assets in the state, Farley said.

Grand Rapids native and 2008 GVSU graduate Brandon Bauer, who earned dual majors in finance and business economics, moved to Chicago for a job with the now-defunct National City Bank after graduation.

Bauer worked in retail development for the bank and was one of 20 hired in his position out of 2,000 applicants. Following PNC Financial Services’ takeover of National City, Bauer left his job because “it was a big shake-up” with “a lot of cuts.”

His bank job also left him unable to afford a house and at the mercy of the hustle of the city. Bauer recently took a job with a corporate recruiting firm in an effort to boost his income to better combat the “crazy cost of living” but said living in Chicago still leaves him missing his family and the slower pace of life he once knew in Grand Rapids.

“I saw my friends grow and flourish in Grand Rapids,” he said. “At first I didn’t give Grand Rapids a fair chance.”

Farley said GVSU President Thomas J. Haas once called the university “Michigan’s brain gain” because of the success the university has had keeping graduates in the state compared to other schools. According to a 2011 report, 84 percent of GVSU graduates are employed in Michigan.

“Experiential education is key in helping students realize that they can find jobs in Michigan, and allows students to test drive their careers,” he said.

According to Next Generation Consulting, a Wisconsin firm that specializes in advising companies and communities on how to attract young people and professionals, 89 percent of students said they valued potential earnings when it came to where they wanted to live after college. The data also showed that 11 percent of college students thought Michigan had broad enough job opportunities for them. The report said 59 percent of students were considering staying in the state after graduation, with 30 percent unsure of their plans.

Bauer said he misses the family and community atmosphere he had taken for granted in his hometown. He said he now would like to look at using his skills somewhere within Grand Rapid’s booming health care industry and hopes to take advantage of the area’s lower cost of living and proximity to his extended family.

“I’m a big family guy, I miss being around for things,” he said.

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