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Philadelphia's revival appealing to graduates

New lures, including a growing cultural scene and the work of Campus Philly, aid retention.

Events such as the annual Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll have helped make Philadelphia attractive.
Events such as the annual Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll have helped make Philadelphia attractive.Read moreJ. FUSCO / Visit Philadelphia

Deborah Diamond

is president of Campus Philly

Philadelphia has benefited from the national and generational trends that show an increasing number of young people gravitating to cities to live, work, play, and study.

With the census showing 50,306 new residents ages 20 to 34 in the city since 2000, and Center City District measuring an 11.4 percent increase in residents living in the city's extended downtown, Philadelphia's revival is strongly linked to millennials voting with their feet. Several important investments have uniquely positioned the city to leverage these trends, creating a new attitude about Philadelphia's appeal and potential.

The groundwork was laid in the last two decades, with amenities built that not only would attract empty-nesters and suburbanites, but also would be enjoyed by the generation for whom cities are sexy. These include city, state, and philanthropic investments in arts and culture that make the city vibrant; real estate tax abatements that make buying and improving a home affordable; and outdoor cafés, parks, and public spaces that the Center City District developed to make our streetscape attractive.

Campus Philly was another one of these investments, created by Philadelphia and local colleges and universities to encourage students to study, explore, live, and work in the city. Through our efforts with PhillyGoes2College and Graduate!Philadelphia, college attainment has risen and is now more than 36 percent among 25- to 34-year-olds.

This rate will continue to rise as more of the 300,000 students who study in the region connect with jobs and communities. In a study conducted by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia in 2004, only 29 percent of nonnative college students reported staying in Philadelphia after graduation. When Campus Philly reprised the study six years later, that number was up to 48 percent.

Campus Philly's efforts as an off-campus student activities and career service office has been a significant factor in growing Philadelphia's young, college-educated workforce.

Job opportunities are key to keeping students in the area after graduation. Post-recession, success on the job market for recent college graduates means internships, entering the job market while still in college. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that 63 percent of students who had a paid internship in college had a job offer upon graduation, compared with 35 percent of students with no internship and 37 percent who had an unpaid internship. Campus Philly research shows that 70 percent of students with a summer internship experience in Philadelphia stayed after they graduated.

In a survey we conducted with 878 college students in the spring, 85 percent responded with a positive impression of the local job market. Students are increasingly preparing themselves professionally: almost as many are active on LinkedIn, the career-oriented social networking site (48 percent), as are active on Twitter (50 percent). Sixty-four percent told us they have resources to build connections to regional employers.

Of course, graduates also have to like Philadelphia enough to look for a job here, and the city ranks high with college students. For 26 percent, Philadelphia is their favorite part of attending school, and 55 percent say it's an "added benefit." According to a survey Campus Philly recently conducted with Philadelphia Magazine, 46 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds expect to stay in the region. (Only 22 percent expect to be elsewhere, and 32 percent say they "don't know," indicating the significant opportunity we have to influence them.)

Campus Philly's strategic plan focuses on accelerating the number of paid internship opportunities in the region and providing a best-in-class online platform for connecting students to employers. The coming year will bring an overhaul of our site,, and the development of a corporate advisory council to help companies offer more paid internships.

At Campus Philly's annual meeting on Thursday, we will present the facts and figures about our regional talent force and feature a program, Open Arts, designed to attach more college students to the region we want them to call home. Connecting students to job opportunities and showing them what there is to love about where they live will pay off for a region now poised to thrive again.