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Market Cities to Graduates

Hey there grand (but struggling) U.S. city with multiple colleges and universities in your midst, what are you doing to help keep in your cities those smart young people graduating from your schools?

My daughter Hannah is about to graduate from a school in Cleveland, Ohio and then she’ll be leaving the state to return home. While she’s happy to be returning home, a part of her wants to remain in Cleveland and the reasons are interesting.

During her four years of study for her Bachelor of Fine Arts she got to know this loveable rust belt city in ways made possible only because she was a “student.” For example, she got to know the city transit routes pretty well because the City of Cleveland/Transit Commission partners with local universities and colleges to provide students with transit passes. You can’t beat free travel!

Being able to navigate an interesting city by bus at no cost is one pretty good bonus for a college student in the city, but students need more…especially when it comes to food and entertainment. With close to 10 higher learning institutions in the region, a city like Cleveland has to have those truly unique food and drink establishments that have…er… character and a menu that’s tailor made for student budgets.

Thanks to Hannah, I’ve since learned that there are wonderful places to eat that we would never have found on our own…even as former residents of the city!! Students have the desire and curiosity to try out new places around campus and in the city. They’re like explorers mapping out new frontiers and take pleasure “discovering” new places to eat and drink. The more “unique” the restaurant/bar the better.

It’s a win-win situation – students help to keep local establishments going AND get a tasty alternative to McDonald’s and cafeteria food.

Since we are talking about students it goes without saying that cultural and educational institutions like various museums, art galleries, science centers, theaters and concert halls are all enhanced by the support and patronage of local students (and their families visiting from out of town).

Museums and such are part of the foundational core of grand old cities like Cleveland. You can’t create these unique core components in newer communities and it’s not just because it’s too expensive, it’s just that part of what makes these institutions great is the “history” that they each wear.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has an international following because of it’s world famous pieces acquired throughout the decades. Severance Hall, which houses the Cleveland Orchestra, is one of the most famous and beautiful halls in the world not because I say so or some Cleveland resident says so. The Hall holds that title because people, writers, music critics and others from around the world have said so throughout the decades.

That’s cache and that’s the kind “history” that these institutions “wear.”

So just imagine how attractive all of this becomes when you add to these foundational components of the city the impact of new urbanists and sustainable living advocates. These visionaries are turning old neighborhoods into funky energetic hot spots with farmers markets, small businesses,  new housing options and civic leadership that is helping to make cities like Cleveland something really special that’s hard to re-create any where else in the world.

That something special is tugging at the heart strings of the thousands of graduates from around the country and around the world who only dropped by for a four-year degree, but with a little encouragement might stay longer.

So Cleveland and other cities across the U.S. that are really blessed to have vibrant college campuses in and around the urban core – what are you doing to aggressively reach out to the well educated graduates you’ve nurtured during their four years in your towns?

Parents and students what would you like cities to do to help you make the decision to turn a four-year stay into something more permanent?

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