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SU’s Project KEEP US releases findings on CNY student retention
SU’s Project KEEP US releases findings on CNY student retentionDecember 13, 2004Amy Schmitzaemehrin@syr.edu
14 percent plan to stay in 12-county area; 33 percent undecided
The findings of Syracuse University’s Project KEEP US, a research study conducted this fall by students in the public relations research class at SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, were announced at a press conference Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. in the Bartlett Room of the Newhouse School.
The study targeted college students pursuing degrees at colleges and universities in the 12-county Central Upstate area outlined in the Essential New York Initiative, a report issued by the Metropolitan Development Association (MDA) of Syracuse and Central New York, Inc. in February 2004. The area encompasses Cayuga, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Seneca, St. Lawrence and Tompkins counties.
The study found that college students in the 12-county area belong to one of five clusters, each of which is motivated by different factors when deciding to stay or leave the area after completing their education. “When it comes to the complex decision of where to live after graduation from college or graduate school, there is not ‘one’ typical student profile,” Vincent says. “Rather there are different types of students with different motivators and needs.”
Responses collected from 26 key questions in an online survey, ranging from factors of importance in the decision-making process to demographic information, were used to build extensive profiles of each cluster. The research team used advanced statistical techniques to analyze and compress the data and assigned a name to each cluster to bring to light the differences among the five distinct groups. Better Life Seekers are 20.34 percent of the college student population; Homebodies 20.96 percent, Dreamers 8.21 percent, Recruitables 31.51 percent and Careerists 18.98percent.
In part, the study asked, “What can the area do to better familiarize you with what it has to offer new college graduates?” resulting in 1,700 responses. Many of the student respondents indicated that they had little knowledge of the area surrounding campus and had suggestions ranging from job fairs for local companies to free shuttle bus service.
A total of 2,299 full-time and part-time students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree-granting programs at 25 different institutions completed the study, providing information about decision-making preferences, current studies, work and internship experiences, their dream job and industry preferences. According to Vincent, a sample size of more than 2,000 is twice what is typical for polls and studies that predict behavior for people in the entire United States.
“While our sample was broad and diverse, there is a high degree of concurrence, or agreement, among the students,” Vincent says. “More than 87 percent of the responding students indicated it is important or very important that they can immediately get or start a job that at the very least will pay the bills. Thanks to this similarity in behavior and response patterns, the study can make projections for the students in the 12-county area as well as offer insights into student differences. However, student populations are always changing so data such as this would require updating on a fairly regular basis.”
Project KEEP US addressed four objectives: to determine if students at area colleges are staying, leaving or undecided about where to locate upon completing their college education; to determine factors that influence students’ decisions to stay or go from the area where they attended college; to determine student characteristics ? by location, by career choices, etc. ? to better understand research results; to determine conditions or actions that may surface in the study that may be taken to keep graduates of area colleges in the area.
Better Life Seekers: What’s important to Better Life Seekers is: reasonable cost of living ? housing, taxes, transportation, utilities, etc.; housing options ? sufficient amount, quality of facilities, neighborhood locations; a safe environment, feeling of being safe; diverse and/or tolerant population. “Better Life Seekers don’t care if the better life is in their hometown, and they won’t move to a place just for the money,” Vincent says.
Homebodies: What’s important to Homebodies is: being near their family; being very familiar with the area; living with family to save money. “Homebodies are not motivated by quality of life ? such as cultural offerings, arts and music,” Vincent says. “Nor do company or community recruiting efforts, nor benefits and/or special incentives work for homebodies, unless, of course, it’s from their hometown.”
Dreamers: What’s important to Dreamers is their compelling vision of what they want to do. “Dreamers don’t care if there are a lot of jobs in the field or if they’ll get a high salary; they don’t care if they have a good standard of living, and they will sacrifice or forego relationships for the sake of the dream,” Vincent says. “Dreamers will sacrifice to realize their dream. Their wildcard motivators are unique to their vision and transcend other issues.”
Recruitables: What’s important to Recruitables are: efforts made by a company or community representative to recruit them; recommendations from trusted professors; benefits and/or special incentives such as loan-payback programs; being near professional contacts. “Recruitables are looking for the best deal overall and will amend their mission in order to get it,” Vincent says.
Careerists: Vincent says what’s important to Careerists is “The Career. The Career. The Career.” They seek high salaries for jobs in their field; excellent opportunity to land their dream job; the opportunity to immediately get or start a job that will at least pay the bills. “Careerists are not concerned about reasonable cost of living, housing options, neighborhood facilities or a safe, diverse environment, unless it’s in a place that is known for their field,” Vincent says.
About the Respondents
Of the 2,299 participants in the study sample, 13 percent are full-time students pursuing associate’s degrees, 1 percent are part-time students pursuing associate’s degrees, 66 percent are full-time students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, 2 percent are part-time students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, 16 percent are full-time students pursuing graduate degrees and 2 percent are part-time students pursuing graduate degrees.
Data was collected from students enrolled at SUNY Canton, Cayuga Community College, Cazenovia College, Clarkson University, Colgate University, Cornell University, SUNY Cortland, Crouse Hospital School of Nursing, Empire State College, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, Hamilton College, Herkimer County Community College, SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, Ithaca College, Le Moyne College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Onondaga Community College, SUC Potsdam, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center College of Nursing, St. Lawrence University, Syracuse University, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Utica College and Wells College.
The final research report and all data will be available on the project web site (www.projectkeepus.com) after Dec. 13.