While the recently-released College Destinations Index ranked the city of Rochester highly in some regards, more notable were the ways in which the area did not fare well. Rochester performed poorly in terms of entrepreneurial growth, and even worse in terms of retention of students. UR and other Rochester-area college students — more than those of almost any other college town — have a tendency to leave the area once they’ve attained their bachelor’s degrees.
It goes without saying that this type of “brain drain” is harmful to the Rochester community. New graduates who leave the area take with them the prospect of population growth, economic improvement and new business development. As the No. 1 employer in Rochester, a community resource and the largest research university in the area, UR has a responsibility to combat this flight of human capital.
A few initiatives exist at UR that in some ways reverse this trend. The Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year, for example, allows recent UR graduates the opportunity to take courses related to entrepreneurship free of tuition while pursuing an entrepreneurial project in the Rochester area. Additionally, the University hires a number of graduating seniors each year in the fields of academic research or administrative work.
Still, UR needs to take more initiative in encouraging students to stay in Rochester. The Career Center could accomplish this by applying a Rochester focus to some of its already successful programs — creating alumni networks of solely Rochester residents or hosting career fairs only for local businesses. Additionally, existing programs that help to bring UR students into local organizations, such as the Urban Fellows Program, could be expanded.
UR could be a tool for spreading knowledge about the benefits of living in Rochester as a post-graduate. Beyond tangibles such as a low cost of living, the area offers possibilities for entrepreneurship, innovation and political success that may not exist in larger communities.
In order to be the community asset UR desires to be, the University needs to spend greater time and resources on enticing students to stay. Rochester’s prosperity depends on an end to “brain drain” and an increase in intellectual capital.