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Greenville Business Magazine

Where you go to college may determine where you live once you graduate

Dec 11, 2018 07:35AM ● By Chris Haire

For the better part of a decade, I called Clemson home. It wasn’t something that happened right off the bat. For a few years, I shuffled back and forth between the town and Greenville, but by the time my senior year rolled around, my journey as a full-time townie had officially begun. 

Through grad school, a stint working a string of mostly menial temp jobs, two years teaching at Tri-County Tech, and a year-and-a-half career-switch to journalism, I earned my Tiger Townie bona fides.

Some of it, I suppose, was inevitable. I was born a Tiger, raised a Tiger, and will always be a Tiger.

But here’s the thing: I really just dug the place. The whole thing. From the musty bottom floors of the Cooper Library to the scruffy confines of Sloan Street Tap Room, the creaky floors of Judge Keller’s, and all the sidewalks and hallways I walked as I strolled around town and across campus, week after week, year after year.

For a time, I thought I would never leave. But, eventually, career ambitions took hold. Naturally, I took a job in Greenville. And naturally, I jumped from that job to another in Greenville. I was no longer tied to Clemson, but I was still in the area.

Once again, though, the desire to prove myself in other markets took hold. So I went looking. For a bit, it looked like Salt Lake City would be my new home, and, briefly, St. Louis, but I ended up in Boston.

Although things didn’t turn out as planned—the position I thought I had in the bag was eliminated after a few weeks of interviews—I found a place in Beantown as an all-around critic and columnist for a paper. But as enjoyable as it all was, the need to move on returned again.

Eventually, I ended up in Honolulu for two years. Lovely place, obviously. Hiked the mountains in the morning and swam in the ocean in the afternoon and on the weekends and ate sushi nearly every single day.

Strangely enough, paradise itself wears thin after awhile, especially when you feel home in your bones. So I returned to the Palmetto State and spent nearly a decade in Charleston before the inevitable pull to the Upstate returned again. And that’s how I ended up back in Greenville.

I’m not alone.

According to a recent study by the market research firm EMSI, more than half of graduates from state universities live within 200 miles of their alma mater, while 40 percent live within a mere 50 miles. The team at EMSI sourced data from more than 100 million online profiles and résumés for the study.

In the case of Clemson, the number of grads staying close to home was staggering: 14,028 settled in Greenville County, 5,557 in Pickens County, 1,814 in Anderson, 1,257 in Spartanburg, and 859 in Oconee County. Charleston County was another destination for Tigers, with 4,455 landing there, while Mecklenberg County had 4,393 and Fulton County 4,568, figures that show the powerful draw of the region’s two big cities, Charlotte and Atlanta.

Two of the state’s other popular institutions—the University of South Carolina and College of Charleston—showed similar cases in which grads put down roots in the same county as their respective alma maters, with 27,444 USC graduates living in Richland County and 12,477 CofC graduates remaining in Charleston County. While most Furman University graduates settled in Greenville—not a surprise—Spartanburg’s Wofford College actually saw more graduates living in Greenville.

Equally as important, EMSI also discovered that a whopping 61 percent of community college graduates lived within 50 miles of their alma mater. In the Upstate, the vast majority of community college students stayed close to their alma maters, with 14,186 Greenville Tech grads living in Greenville County, 4,883 Spartanburg Community College grads living in Spartanburg County, and 2,166 Tri-County Tech students living in Anderson County.

All of this is a sure sign that relationships between state-run schools and the area industries remain strong, with curriculums and majors complementing the workforce needs of private and public sector entities.

These findings also run counter to the oft-repeated tale that the Palmetto State is suffering from brain drain. If this study is correct, those who go to school here, stay here. And that’s a win-win for everybody.