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Curing The Boston Brain Drain

The east tower of Northeastern University's International Village, its newest residence hall. (Charles Connell/Flickr)

The east tower of Northeastern University's newest residence hall, the International Village. (Charles Connell/Flickr)

Here’s a list of three problems we have in the Boston area:

Massachusetts retains only about 60 percent of its college graduates. In other words, we have a brain drain problem.

Student housing is in short supply in much of the city, which forces many students into off-campus rentals, where they’re notorious for drinking, partying and trashing what might otherwise be lovely neighborhoods. In other words, we have a neighborhood problem.

The Filene’s hole is still gaping in the middle of Downtown Crossing, and the once-bustling commercial heart of Boston is sputtering. So we have a downtown problem, too.

These three problems might not sound particularly related. But Barry Bluestone, a housing economist at Northeastern University, thinks he can help solve all three in one fell swoop.


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  • Mark

    The figure you cite about Massachusetts retaining only 60% of its college graduates is misleading.

    Massachusetts has a lot of colleges of national and even international significance that do not expect to get mostly Massachusetts residents as their students, and most graduates go back to where they came from.

    The true metric is to see how many college graduates who come from Massachusetts live here after graduating, and how many who don’t come from here chose to settle down here.

    If Massachusetts retains even 15% of all MIT graduates, we’re way ahead of the rest of the country/world.

    You also have to look at what type of graduates: Engineering vs. English, Medicine vs. Law.

  • http://www.wbur.org/people/aragusea Adam Ragusea


    The study to which we referred also found that New York state retains 70% percent of its grads after one year; California retains 84%. It also did numerous other breakdowns along the lines you describe (out-of-state vs. in-state, elite vs. not-so-elite, etc). The interpretation of the study authors was that Massachusetts is losing a larger portion of its grads than its peer states.

    Here’s the study from the Boston Fed: http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/neppc/dp/2007/dp073.htm

    And here’s a segment we did on this subject with a Boston Fed economist back in the spring (the portion of interest to you starts at about 7:00): http://www.wbur.org/2010/05/27/college-grads

  • Maria Zade

    I love this idea. I am 26 years old and weighing my options for graduate school, as are many of my friends. The main hurdle when it comes to graduate school is cost, of course. The higher cost of attending school in Boston – due to rents and the limited housing options offered by many universities – versus other cities and states is a significant strike against staying here. Were the city to step in and provide a low cost alternative, it would reframe the debate for many prospective students.

  • Rog

    Great way to spark a discussion about what to do about making the city attractive to recent graduates. The idea seems a bit contrived. Grad student ghettoization is exactly what graduate study is not about, and not what a vibrant Boston is about. Neighborhood diversity should be the sustainable goal.

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