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Posted on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

University of Michigan president calls on corporate America to help keep college graduates in Michigan

By Kellie Woodhouse

For more than 18 months, it's been an oft-quoted figure: There are an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 unfilled jobs in Michigan because the workforce here doesn't have enough technical skills to fill the demand.

With the statistic comes the worry that Michigan can't attract enough talent to facilitate a strong economy.

While the state's three research universities —Wayne State and Michigan State universities and the University of Michigan— produced 14,000 graduates with high-demand degrees in 2011, many of them left the state not long after walking across the commencement stage.


Mary Sue Coleman speaks during a October 2012 press conference.

Daniel Brenner | file photo

About 40 percent of U-M alumni live in Michigan.

"I've not heard about students leaving the University of Michigan destitute and unable to get jobs. I hear they do quite well and many of them leave the state," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who spoke Monday during an Inforum luncheon at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. "Shame on us if we can't convince the students to come and look at the opportunities in Michigan. We don’t do enough of that."

Lou Anna K. Simon, president of MSU, and Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the Council on Competitiveness, joined Coleman in a panel discussion about global competitiveness that also touched on the state's need for technical employees.

Coleman said U-M's engineering school is at capacity, spending millions to immerse students in real-word situations in technology fields, and shifted some of the burden of combatting the state's brain drain to businesses.

State corporations, Coleman said, have to do more to convince recent college graduates to stay in state.

"It’s as incumbent on corporate America as it is on the universities to say if we can't attract the students, why? What is it that’s failing?" said Coleman, who serves as co-chair of President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

"It would help if the companies let the students know they want them," she continued. "Think about some innovative recruiting. We've got them captive on our campuses and we can do all we can to say things about the opportunities we have in Michigan ... but if there's nothing on the other side it's a little tough."

According to a recent economic impact report, WSU, MSU and U-M have more than 1.1 million living alumni worldwide, with 590,000 living in Michigan in the summer of 2012. Alumni of the three schools account for 7.8 percent of the state's adult population.

As of July, 211,000 U-M alumni, out of a total of 525,000 living alums, live in the state. Roughly 41,000 alums live in California, a state brimming with companies seeking graduates with high-demand degrees.

U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the school does not have data sorted by residency of recent graduating classes.

Meanwhile, the number of high-demand degrees produced by U-M is growing. For example, U-M conferred more than 1,500 engineering degrees in 2012, up from about 1,230 a decade earlier, according to school records.

"We are both running flat-out at capacity," Coleman said of U-M and MSU's engineering programs. "Young people are getting the message, they want to be educated in engineering but it isn't free."

Because of the technology involved in studying the field, running engineering departments is expensive. Simon said that if MSU is going to grow its engineering program, it needs more money for labs, faculty and infrastructure. She said MSU is working with other state colleges on seeking financial support from the state in order to grow high-demand programs.

"There are plans that can be put in place to grow the number of engineering students in Michigan," Simon said. "It would require some money."

Added Coleman: "At the end of the day it's going to be a decision about funding."

Simon said that the livability of the state also is a factor in retaining graduates. She said many students graduate from MSU and move to "cool urban environments" where there's a lot of jobs, but also a diverse social scene.

Chicago is one of the most popular launching pads for recent college graduates from Michigan. Nearly 26,400 U-M alumni live in Illinois, while 25,400 live in New York.

"They will go there without a job in some cases," Simon said, adding that the continued revitalization of Detroit can help attract students to the state. "Detroit is really critical to our success."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

Michigan became an "at-will" State in 1983. As such, without measurable legal rights in employment there is no reason to stay in Michigan. This is particularly true now as jobs are tough to come by everywhere, and when a person loses a job they cannot just go get another one. If people like UofM President Mary Sue Coleman really wanted to stop people from leaving Michigan, a good place to start would be to end the "at-will" nature of nearly all University of Michigan employment. Then push the State of Michigan to do the same.... I know too many that stayed in Michigan and the States way too long trying before going under or emigrating. I've also encountered numerous immigrants from Countries like India and China that come, look, and try. But after all of the work, waiting and expense to be admitted legally to work and live in the U.S., return to their Countries of origin where they can get a living-wage job and health care.... Increasingly, it is not just brain drain from Michigan, it is from the States all together....


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

Why not mandate that these job creators post positions in public forum? Most of these 70k positions are posted on corporate websites only. This makes job searching difficult and time consuming. My theory is they do this so no one applies and they can fill the positions with Visa holders and/or move it overseas completely.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

I forget the source but the message was the States used to support higher education at a level of about $8000/student in 2000 and now provide only about $4000/student in constant dollars. So not only are companies disinvesting in education of their workforce, so is the state. Sunday's paper showed that 52% of the state's GDP was attributed to Detroit, Warren and Livonia. That's where the energy and money in this state should be focused and invested. Instead, the non-producing portions of the state pick a fight with labor in this area, disinvest in their schools, fail to provide sound infrastructure and invest nothing in new initiatives attractive to educated youth. When I hired into a job in this state back in the mid-80's, the company hired me because I was educated and could learn any skill they required, not because I had the particular skill they needed at the moment. Since then, most of my attempts in recent years require an overwhelming number of specific skills at pay rates much below my historical average and way below that in constant dollars.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Something I didn't include in the article, but that's interesting: Coleman questioned the accuracy of the unfilled jobs figure. Her exact words: "We hear that figure all the time. I want a little bit of caution to the figure because I think we need some more evidence about exactly what the need is."


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

I question the 70,000 jobs claim also and think shouldn't spout the corporate mantra without doing some critical, independent evaluation. Companies constantly whine about a lack of skilled employees (in some fields only) so they can get h1-B visa holders as cheap labor. I don't see or hear of Michigan companies doing anything innovative with regard to attracting, training, and retaining skilled employees. There's a tremendous lack of investment by companies in their employees. I've worked at my share and while the mantra is 'people are our most important resource' I've seen nothing but disrespect and incompetence in managing that resource. One word that illustrates my point, cubicles.

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

Very interesting story and discussion in the comments here. As a recent college graduate, I don't think they're paying enough attention to the most important factor in students' decisions: at the end of the day, this is still Michigan. Most of my friends were eager to get out of state to bigger cities, and they talk about moving back to Ann Arbor when they're ready to start a family. I love Ann Arbor, but Chicago, New York, D.C. are much more exciting places to be when you're 23-years-old. That's always going to be a challenge when it comes to recruiting.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

The median level of education in AA is much higher than most of the rest of the state and if you can't retain the educated here, you have little hope for places like Gaylord, Saginaw, Muskegon, etc unless those places start thinking really progressive and remake themselves in ways that are not evolutionary but revolutionary. UM was founded on the basis that Michigan residents were going to be a higher educated citizenry compared to other states. We're failing dismally in that regard. The city's you mention all have excellent public transportation and yet even in AA the naysayers to public transportation are legion.

Jim Mulchay

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

Any interesting follow-up - if the information is available - is to identify the colleges that University of Michigan employees (including Flint, Dearborn, Hospital/medical institutions, athletics, etc.) came from (for those positions that require a college degree). How many went to an undergraduate college or university in Michigan? Note that the numbers (if available) might be distorted by the graduate students assisting professors, but anyway it would be interesting to see the breakdown. Anyone wanting to start a family is going to be concerned with housing, finances (taxes, etc.) and schooling for their children - along with their career / employer - so wanting to hire someone is one thing, convincing them to take your offer is something else.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

Near the end of the Cold War "attractive" California fell into a local recession. High tech companies went under the federal axe and while tens of thousands were fleeing the State to find work the corporations kept holding their expensive monthly "job fairs" for thousands of apparent "jobs" as if it were business as usual. The natives up North were furious at the number of "outsiders" invading their towns (A2 model city Portland) like locust, boosting their housing prices and taxes, crowding their streets with beemers, and warping their stable community customs. Without another war in the "mix" (Military Industrial Complex) and the rise-and-fall of Apple's pie, California may be headed into another recession. Welcome to the new tech-world order. The 50,000 alums in Chicago and New York are very likely Ross B-schoolers. You know Mary Sue, those seven figure accountants, bankers, and traders responsible for America's financial mess.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Harumpf! Harumpf !!! Our State Senator MUST call for mandated staffing levels of engineering interns and fresh-outs from Universities located in selectively located counties. Harumpf ! Harumpf !!!


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

How about accepting Michigan students into your UM graduate programs? My daughter might have stayed here instead of going on to Cornell (she was accepted to every graduate program she applied to, except the UM, and despite her being a UM alumni).


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

The fact (according to NY Times) is that companies do not hire for those tens of thousands of available jobs. They have openings, they periodically advertise (job security for HR), but when it comes to actually responding to and hiring someone they lapse into inaction. The volatile economy is why - companies simply refuse to commit. The kids are staying in school longer and owing more than ever. Many of those local "American" companies are global conglomerates finding technically competent engineers and scientist globally. Working globally, and not in Michigan. Want to keep the money at home? Close the globalization border.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:36 a.m.

What engineering graduate would want to stay in Michigan when the cutting edge technology is happening in California or Texas. The economy in Michigan has been in a recession for more than a decade. Companies here are not willing to pay a wage that is competitive with those out west. Also, with 6 months of winter, who would stay here after graduating.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

I'd move to Texas, the tax structure and housing costs in California are obscene..........


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:34 a.m.

I wouldn't stay in Michigan if I were them. There are way more fun places to spend your 20s. Michigan (some would argue) has no big city. Why stay and feel depressed? My advice: Go have fun in and explore a big city out of state, then come back if you're feeling generous.

Milton Shift

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

There are unfilled jobs not because there aren't qualified workers, but because the pay is despicably low. You'll see tech jobs offering 24k salaries with expected 60-80 hour weeks - when the same job pays six figures out west. No end to how cheap a CEO can get when it means more money for him.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

"Freedom" To Work For Less


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Right to work for less!

Jay Thomas

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:42 a.m.

No, no, we need more H1B visas. Americans are too dumb to do these jobs! Sigh...


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:35 a.m.

Very definitely: that's part of the problem here.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

Too little space for details but our daughter graduated U of M in '98 with a double major in the sciences. After 2 years of pursuing leads in Michigan, this Ann Arbor girl had to move to California to find a job. And then: she took an additional year to get her teaching certificate. And then: she lost her favorite job at UC Berkeley because of California's govt. mismanagement crisis (aka, govt. debt crisis, aka over-spending crisis). UC Berkeley even gave her an early promotion to avoid losing her to the state job cuts. Didn't work. Here we are 15 years later, daughter still has a good job in the San Francisco Bay Area but she wants the same thing we do: to come back to her home town of Ann Arbor. She has gotten letters of recommendation that should've been a ticket to any job she wanted but still - no jobs near home. Same goes for her talented husband. He's taking additional college classes but still has no guarantee he'll find a job when he's done. Something is very wrong with this picture.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Same with my son and his wife. UM grads living in Vista CA. Most of their cohort left the state when they graduated, most to CA.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:06 a.m.

So Mary Sue wants Michiganders to pay more so the U can take in more engineering students. How many of these new slots will be for foreign students? I'm thinking A LOT. U of M has how much in its endowment? Use that if you want to build more buildings. It just seems to me that the universities are becoming what is "unsustainable". They just want to GROW GROW GROW ad nauseam.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

Mary Sue just doesn't get it. Is she actually blaming the recruiting practices of Michigan companies for the brain drain??? All these Michigan companies recruit but there are many realities working against them. For instance, the auto industry is no longer the tech darling it once was in the current era of information technology and mobile devices. And the salaries here are pathetic compared to the perks of big city high finance jobs. But President Simon seems to get it by mentioning the most important reason these kids move away, the 'cool urban environments'. With over 50,000 alumni in Illinois and New York, I would bet the majority are living in Chicago and NYC. You can't walk a few blocks in either of those cities without running into people wearing UM and MSU sweatshirts. Detroit currently has a few things going on as far as building an interesting urban environment, but it will take a lot more work. So if the Michigan based universities want to help solve this brain drain, how about helping to create a more 'cool urban environment' in Detroit? I think WSU is doing their part in midtown. How about UM and MSU using some of their gigantic endowments and creating satellite campuses downtown, or doing more to cultivate start ups in the downtown area?


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

a2why... Well said. UM and MSU should pay more attention to what Wayne St. and others have done to make Detroit an attractive option. After graduating from UM and going elsewhere, both of our children have discovered Detroit. They and their friends are heading there in droves. Pay greater attention UM and MSU.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

Cool urban environments require money, money from good paying corporate jobs. There is a concentration of that in the Royal Oak area, but it's far too minuscule to create the scale needed to compete with areas like Chicago, New York and San Francisco.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:50 a.m.

I completely agree with President Coleman. Of my sons' friends who attended one of our outstanding universities in Michigan about 60% have moved out of state. Our state is not currently making a good case for young people to stay. The extreme views of our governor and legislators are pushing young people away. It is very sad.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

emsgp, why do you have to politcize this? Do you realize that most of the northern state (espeically, Mi, Minnesota, and Ohio) are losing population? People move for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is to relocate closer to family or move to states with warmer climates such as Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and California, and almost always because of better economic prospects and tax policies. I know of NO ONE that moves in or out because of politicians. I could argue that people are moving out of other states because of Democratic governors and legislatures but these kinds of arguments don't hold much water.

David Parker

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 8:08 p.m.

graduates go where the jobs are. MI declined in population 2000 to 2010. snyder wasn't elected yet.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

Felicia, perhaps your ideology has created blinders with respect to the governor's effectiveness. I suggest you work with him at least through his first term. We tried a significantly different approach in the previous 8 years with Gov. Granholm's top down government method, which produced little success in keeping young people in Michigan after graduation.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

Some kids want to leave the state when they graduate. some are unable to find job local and have to accept jobs out of state. They are all doing very well. UM worth the money I paid for my son's education, even he is doing not what he studied for.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

At 42% of out-of-state admissions, what do you expect Mary Sue?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:54 a.m.

Yes blue, it is much about money and reputation... But if you "guess" the admissions department must go out and "make up" for some percentage of Michigan residents declining acceptance to UM - you have a basic misunderstanding of the art and science of admissions. They (admissions) know EXACTLY how many out-of-state they will accept, what percentage they will get, and what percentage is their end target. Further, the "30% of those offered" (Michigan residents) who decline is also a known factor. That percentage is not uncommon for any high value school and these prospective students have other high quality options.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

The out of state cohort brings in money and spreads the university's reputation around the country and around the world. I guess that when 30% of those offered reject a UM offer, the UM expectation is that someone else will fill the gap and appreciate the offer via an acceptance of the acceptance.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

"I've not heard about students leaving the University of Michigan destitute and unable to get jobs." Apparently she doesn't chat with the baristas when she goes out for coffee downtown.

Angry Moderate

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

Your numbers do not include ALL graduates in the denominator.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

"Out of 41 million working college grads in 2010, 48 percent - 20 million - held jobs that required LESS than a bachelor's degree. 37% held jobs that required a high-school diploma or LESS. Maybe some work as baristas, too." The hole you are digging is getting deeper: 1) your initial thesis fails because the data that I posted shows that UM graduates are earning at a nationally competitive annual rate of compensation; 2) by providing the figures above, you are actually providing strong statistical support for my argument and against your argument as follows: you provide an extremely large population that is not earning compensation commensurate with their degree; I'm providing contrary evidence for MICHIGAN graduates. The spread between those two citations is strengthened by my data,but is also strengthened by your data. In conclusion, and in the contrapositive sense: your data weakens your argument, as does my data. In the final analysis, if MICHIGAN graduates (the target of the original and negative OP) are doing much better than the national average, and that contention is supported by the both data sets, the initial contention (the negative OP) must fail on the merits. Put the shovel down and take a break.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Here's some numbers blue The Center for College Affordability and Productivity says that nearly half of all American college grads from 2010 were underemployed in relatively "low-paying" and "low-skilled" jobs. Out of 41 million working college grads in 2010, 48 percent - 20 million - held jobs that required LESS than a bachelor's degree. 37% held jobs that required a high-school diploma or LESS. Maybe some work as baristas, too. Data source


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

The difference between your anecdotal evidence and reality is the difference between your innumeracy and actual fact. (MoneyWatch) Which of the nation's top state universities produce graduates who go on to make the biggest bucks? According to State flagship universities are typically the most prestigious public university in each of the 50 states. Such school typically attract higher performing students, receive greater financial support from their respective state governments and enjoy the best graduation rates among public institutions in their states. State flagships whose grads earn the highest starting salaries 1. University of California-Berkeley: $53,100 2. University of Maryland: $50,600 3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: $50,600 4. University of Virginia: $50,500 5. University of Connecticut: $49,500 6. University of Texas: $49,100 7. Penn State University: $48,600 8. University of Wisconsin: $47,900 9. University of Delaware: $47,300 10. University of Washington: $47,100 State flagships whose grads earn the lowest starting salaries 1. University of South Dakota: $35,900 2. University of Montana: $37,400 3. University of South Carolina: $39,400 4. University of Hawaii: $40,300 5. University of Oregon: $40,600 6. University of Kentucky: $40,600 7. University of Missouri: $40,900 8. University of Nebraska: $40,900 9. University of New Mexico: $41,100 10. University of Mississippi: $41,200 The salary figures were generated by research firm and made available through CollegeMeasures, which among other things lets people compare how private and state schools compare in terms of salaries, grad rates, freshman retention rates and more. For those dreaming of attending UC Berkeley, meanwhile, the cost may be prohibitive if you aren't a Californian. The price tag for non-residents is nearly $56,000.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 4:16 a.m.

What's shameful is U of M leaving kids in $50,000 of debt for completely useless degrees. At least half of the recent grads I know are unemployed, working minimum wage service/retail jobs that don't even require a high school diploma, or going into more debt to get a Masters degree because their Bachelor's is in a useless major.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:44 a.m.

"Apparently she doesn't chat with the baristas when she goes out for coffee downtown." Congratulations, a snotty comment that also lacks logical foundation: 1) if a person is a barista, they have a job; whether or not they are destitute is a separate issue; 2) what is your foundation for assuming that the folks serving you coffee are not still you routinely check for a diploma?; 3) with 500,000 or so graduates, there are probably a few who are taking a gap year or otherwise saving up for the next installment of their education; 4) there is no shame in honest labor, however poorly compensated, there is however some shame in writing a post such as yours...pretty puerile and mean spirited.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

How about also accepting more students from Michigan High Schools?


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

The Answer: $$$


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

How about just accepting more Ann Arbor students? Ann Arbor student body is diverse and extremely strong academically and if they are considered worthy by UM instead of being wait listed or rejected they would more likely consider working here as well post graduation. Too many Ann Arbor students who want to be Michigan Wolverines are snubbed for the out of state dollars. The statistics on this can be manipulated to tell the story any way you want. But talk to the well qualified kids and then there is no wonder why they want to leave if rejected by their home town school.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

Michigan's in-state yield is roughly 70%. Several thousand students turn down UM each year. It is also not just the out of state students who out students also out migrate. In addition while some out of state and international students out migrate, many also "stick" with the state. The solution is not to load up the front of the pipeline; the solution is to provide an attractive work/living environment to those who exit the pipeline.