How Portland, Ore., Can Lure (and Keep) College-Educated Residents

Meet the Underdog City Prime for Newly Minted Grads

Yahoo Contributor Network

A Brookings Institution study shows the gap is widening between metro areas that boast a large number of college-educated residents and those that increasingly have fewer. Yahoo! News asked contributors from cities around the nation to propose solutions on how their cities can attract and keep college graduates -- and what they're doing well.


Forget the old school "college town" vibe. High-school graduates looking to snag that bachelor's degree are showing more interest in attending a university in a city where there are plenty of extracurricular options besides the same old, tired campus bar. Portland State University (PSU) is smack in the middle of downtown. Students share the sidewalks with residents on their daily commute, high school kids from neighboring St. Mary's, and the general bustle of day to day city life.

I attended PSU for both my undergraduate and graduate education and -- like many of my peers -- I stuck around well after graduation day with thousands of others in the Rose Quarter (where the Trailblazers play and the only place big enough to fit us all). There are more than half a million 18- to 34-year olds in the Portland metro and 25 percent of those have at least a four-year degree, making it the country's 31st most educated city (per the Portland Business Journal).

What's keeping, or drawing, these degree holders here?

This small city has a relatively low cost of living, for one. The nearby outdoor activities are endless from coastlines to mountains (for hiking or skiing) so it appeals to the weekend warrior crowd. Public transportation is excellent with a quality bus, electric train, and trolley system. There's no shortage of lures with plenty of local indie bands, Powell's world famous bookstore, and a thriving culinary scene.

What isn't working? I've met very few people outside of the Pacific Northwest that know anything about Portland -- including what state it's in. We tend to think of "Orygun" as a well-kept secret, but it may be to our detriment. A little good PR never hurt anyone.

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