For several years, the perception was that New Brunswick was losing a majority of its young, educated citizens after they graduated from post-secondary education.
However, the author of a recent report on college and university retention in N.B says that is now a misconception.
Ted McDonald, the director of the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training, said many of the graduates are living in the territory.
As a matter of fact, McDonald said nearly 90% of N.B residents who study in the region are still here within a year of graduation.
McDonald believed that place matters, though he was surprised at how much it matters.
That compares with 30% for out-of-province graduates and 34% for out-of-country grads.
According to the report, “New Brunswick invests substantially in educating post-secondary students. When qualified graduates leave the province, much of that investment is lost, as they take their human capital (and potential earnings) with them when they relocate.”
Understanding who is staying can help the government develop policies to encourage grads to stay, McDonald told Information Morning Saint John.
He also said it was an inquiry from the province regarding that very thing that offered the impetus for the research.
McDonald said there was also “a fair bit of variation” by the program.
“This is probably good news for New Brunswick that nursing and allied health services have the higher retention rates and they’ve actually increased over the last couple of years.”
However, fields such as IT specialists and engineering have lower retention rates.
Grass not necessarily greener
Anecdotally, McDonald said the impression has often been that many graduates
“go off to greener pastures in other provinces.”
“And so I think the biggest surprise we found when we did this project is that where you’re from when you enrol in those universities or community colleges matters a lot.”
Nearly 90% of those who are from New Brunswick, are still here a year after graduation.
“That kind of flies in the face of that kind of conventional wisdom that we’re just not keeping our young people after they graduate.”
The study did not, however, consider the reasons they remained. Researchers did not talk to students, they simply used administrative data to follow where the students went after graduation.
Opportunity, family, community
Sean McCullum believes there are three main reasons at play.
“Contrary to a certain self-defeating belief among New Brunswickers, there’s a tonne of opportunity here, especially for recent grads,”
said McCullum, who grew up in Quispamsis and graduated from St. Thomas University in 2016.
Another consideration is being able to stay close to family, according to McCullum.
The last motivation bit
“is something that happens at universities, specifically small universities,” he said.
“As a graduate of St. Thomas University, it was a small school, very tight knit … So those are really strong connections. So one of the reasons absolutely that I stay in the province, aside from the opportunities, the family I have … is that community of people that I’ve met and grown to know in the area.”
McDonald hopes to advance the study and pay attention to the number of graduates still in N.B over a longer period of time.
He wonders if there is
“a critical mass that if we can keep you long enough, and you’ve invested in the place, you bought the house, your kids are in school that you’re more likely to stay for the long term.”
Understanding who is staying and why will assist the region in better targeting policies to keep those with “the skills necessary to keep our province going into the future.”
A similar approach could additionally help retain graduates from other parts of Canada and abroad.
“Are we training enough people in the fields that we need and are we able to keep them? And so it ties into this much bigger picture about provincial renewal,” said McDonald.