March 18, 2016


CONTACT:  Kelly Taft
MAG Communications Manager
(602) 452-5020

MAG Data Disputes Report of College Graduates Leaving State

PHOENIX (March 18, 2016)—The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Arizona State University (ASU), and Arizona Commerce Authority are strongly disputing a recent news report that shows Arizona at the bottom of the list when it comes to retaining college graduates. In an article published in The Atlantic CityLab, author Richard Florida indicates that Arizona is among the worst states for two- and four-year college student retention, at only 36.3 percent. However, MAG findings show a much different and extremely more positive picture.

“We recently mapped and analyzed extensive alumni databases for both ASU and the University of Arizona. Our findings show that since 2000, nearly 70 percent of ASU graduates and just over 56 percent of U of A graduates reside in our state,” said MAG Chair W.J. “Jim” Lane, mayor of Scottsdale. “In reality, Arizona has a great story to tell when it comes to keeping our talent close to home.”

Richard Florida wrote his conclusions and mapped the data based on information received from the Brooking Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. That data was gleaned primarily from LinkedIn profiles, which includes online universities. Arizona is home to the University of Phoenix, which is by far the largest provider of online-only learning, boasting over 187,000 students in 2014. However, only slightly more than 8,000 of those students resided in Arizona. MAG’s data are based on an actual alumni database that catalogues every graduate from the university. Over a decade, ASU’s freshman retention rate has rocketed up by nearly 20 percentage points for both Arizona students and the overall freshman class to approximately 85 percent,” said ASU Associate Vice President Angela Creedon. “During that same time, the graduation rate doubled. These trends reflect ASU’s success in expanding access to a quality education and producing master learners who are adaptive and prepared for an information-based workforce when they leave the university. A recent count showed 202,000 ASU graduates living in Arizona, contributing nearly $820 million in taxes and raising the Gross State Product by 3.5 percent.”

MAG Economic Development Committee Chair Michael LeVault finds the methodology of the article misplaced, since it relies primarily on online information.

“Online education is a valuable form of education, with more than 15,000 ASU students enrolled online. But it is important to consider that these students may be based out of state, so it isn’t quite fair to say they are not staying here if the possibility exists that they aren’t physically here to begin with.”

The Arizona Commerce Authority believes the article, which has since been picked up by local media outlets, could have unintended consequences.

“Workforce development is a key goal for the Arizona Commerce Authority,” says ACA President and CEO Sandra Watson. “The CityLab report does not provide an accurate picture of what is taking place in our region,” she said. “When a company is considering Arizona for location or expansion, it is important for them to have a true and full understanding of the vibrant labor market that exists in the Phoenix metro area.”

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About MAG

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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Title VI requires that no person in the United States of America shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity for which MAG receives federal financial assistance.

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