Spring 2019 OSU-Tulsa graduation (copy)

OSU-Tulsa students attend the spring graduation commencement ceremony in May. A recent report shows more college graduates are choosing to leave Oklahoma. Josh New Photography/Courtesy

College graduates are leaving the state at the highest rate in at least 20 years.

The latest issue of the Oklahoma Economist, a quarterly publication from the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve of Kansas City, points out that four of the past five years — 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 — have seen the largest net outflow of college graduates since at least 1999.

The net migration includes college graduates of all ages with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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The most popular destination by far is Texas, followed by Colorado, Arkansas, Washington and California.

“The recent trend of brain drain from Oklahoma presents some challenges,” said Chad Wilkerson, branch executive, vice president and economist at the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

“Having more college graduates move out than move into the state can affect total educational attainment, which in turn could affect overall incomes and tax revenues, as higher-educated people tend to earn and spend more.”

The average net outflow during that period has been 5,300 college graduates per year. While that amounts to less than 0.2% of the state’s population, it is more than half a percent of the population with college degrees and more than the annual number of bachelor’s degrees granted at either the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University, according to the report.

If there is a positive to the report’s findings, it’s that the net outflow of college graduates slowed in 2017 compared to the previous two years and that the number of college graduates moving into the state has remained flat.

“The new outmigration of college graduates in recent years has been due almost completely to more people leaving,” Wilkerson said. “As such, the issue in recent years has not been in attracting college graduates necessarily but in keeping college graduates who are already in the state.”

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Mike Averill



Twitter: @Mike_Averill