Washington ranks second in importing college graduates

October 6, 2010By Seattle Business Magazine

Washington State is an attractive place for recent college graduates from all over the world to come and find a job. In fact, Washington State ranks second in the nation in the net number of trained workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher who come here from out-of-state.

That’s good news for our economy, but it’s not so good for local college graduates looking for a job in the state. According to a report from the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB), Washington ranks first nationally in the employment of engineers, sixth in computer specialists, and ninth in life and physical scientists. However, we rank 38th nationally in the production of bachelors degrees in science and engineering and 42nd in the production of graduate degrees in these fields.

The result is that our state’s economy is dependent on in-migration of workers.

“The best jobs in our economy are going to people outside of Washington,” says Randy Spaulding, director of academic affairs at the HECB.

Our local economy will always need to import talent, Spaulding says. However, he adds, “we need to do a better job of providing those same opportunities to our residents here.”

The greatest obstacle is the capacity of higher education institutions in Washington. Local universities and colleges are already accepting more applications than they can serve. That narrow pipeline is forcing many high school graduates to go to college out of state, and many of them don’t come back after graduation.

Although Washington imports a great deal of college graduates, the state is actually below the national average in the percentage of students from out-of-state entering college. A total of 5,917 recent high school graduates entered the state to attend a college or university, while 7,152 left the state for college.

That imbalance will be a liability in the long run as local companies are forced to expend resources to recruit talent nationally and internationally instead of finding it locally, Spaulding says.