Penn Grads Least Likely to Stay in Philadelphia, Study Finds

Philly ranks in the top 10 nationally for attracting grads of other prestigious schools — but three-quarters of Penn students hit the road.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA downtown city skyline. Sean Pavone | iStock

The University of Pennsylvania held its 262nd commencement ceremony on Monday, and though graduates earned their degrees in Philadelphia, the vast majority of them have likely already fled the city with no plans to come back. The bleak reality is according to a new study from the Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday that ranks cities according to their ability to draw students from the country’s top colleges and universities.

The publication gathered data for 445 prominent research universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as NCAA Division I schools to determine where alumni move after college.

Philadelphia is the seventh biggest metro region in the study behind cities like New York, Dallas and Washington D.C. and ranked eighth in drawing power just behind San Francisco, Boston and Atlanta.

More specifically, the study shows that Philly ranks eighth for drawing two percent or more of alumni from 100 schools in the database. For comparison, New York, the nation’s largest metro region, ranks first for attracting two percent or more of the alumni of 263 schools. A ranking of the top 12 cities puts Philadelphia ahead of regions like Seattle and Denver but below areas like Washington, D.C. and Chicago:

Schools Rank (no. of schools)

  1. New York (263)
  2. Washington (218)
  3. Los Angeles (167)
  4. Chicago (144)
  5. San Francisco (139)
  6. Boston (120)
  7. Atlanta (104)
  8. Philadelphia (100)
  9. Dallas (72)
  10. Houston (60)
  11. Seattle (46)
  12. Denver (38)

And a closer look at the data on Philadelphia shows exactly which alumni stay in the region and which ones leave.

Only 25.6 percent of Penn graduates stay in Philadelphia, with alumni leaving for New York — where up to 20 percent of Penn alumni reside — and Washington D.C. and San Francisco, where up to 10 percent of Penn alumni reside. Cities with one to five percent of Penn alumni include Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Baltimore and Boston.

So which Philadelphia area schools have the greatest number of alumni staying in the region? St. Joseph’s leads the pack with 61.8 percent of alumni in the region, followed by Temple (60.7 percent), Drexel (55.1 percent) and La Salle (54.0 percent).

To see which other college grads move to Philadelphia, view the complete study here.