Where Do Graduates of Northeast Postsecondary Schools End Up?

Minnesota regional map with Northeast MN area highlighted and words Northeast Minnesota Regional Labor Market Information Blog

It’s important to know where postsecondary graduates end up to understand the regional school-to-employer pipeline. It’s important to know where graduates of postsecondary programs in Northeast Minnesota schools are most likely to end up living and working. It’s also important to know which programs have more graduates remaining locally, at least initially. Are community colleges true to their name – do they serve local students and employers? DEED’s Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) Tool provides insight into regional employment trends by institution and instructional program.

The Northeast Region of Minnesota, which consists of seven counties (Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis) is home to several institutions of higher education. These institutions include public universities such as the University of Minnesota Duluth, private four-year universities such as the College of St. Scholastica, and public two year community and technical colleges such as Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, Hibbing Community College, Itasca Community College, Lake Superior College, Mesabi Range College, Rainy River Community College, and Vermilion Community College. Many institutions tout their “pipelines” to local industries and employers.

There are of course many factors that go into a graduate’s decision to leave or stay near their school, including the employment options in the region and the type of school itself. What these data do not show is the number of students that commuted, perhaps over regional boundaries, became self-employed, employed in another state, continued their education, or completed online programs from outside the region. (See https://www.citylab.com/life/2016/03/which-metros-are-best-at-keeping-their-college-graduates/473604/). The update to this CityLab article discusses the influence of online programs on the graduate retention rate for the Phoenix MSA.)

However, the GEO tool does provide the very useful capability to look at which regions and industries graduates find employment in within Minnesota. This allows for the potential analysis of employers and industry makeup as factors in the regional school-to-employer pipeline. Regional employers interested in tapping into local institutions might benefit from a deeper look into these influences on prospective graduates.

Graduates of instructional programs at the community and technical schools in the region were much more likely to be employed in the Northeast two years later. For example, 75 percent of Rainy River Community College and 74 percent of Mesabi Range College graduates were employed in the Northeast two years following graduation. This observation aligns with the common goal of community colleges, which is to serve local students and employers. Vermilion Community College is the one outlier with a much lower percentage of graduates employed in the Northeast than from the other community and technical colleges in the region, but a plurality of graduates still ended up in the region.

Table 1. Employed Graduates by Institution and Region of Employment, 2 Years After Graduation, 2013-2016


Percent of Employed Graduates in Northeast Region

Percent of Employed Graduates in Twin Cities Region

Percent of Employed Graduates in All Other MN Regions

Top Industry of Employment

The College of St. Scholastica




Health Care

Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College




Health Care

Hibbing Community College




Health Care

Itasca Community College




Health Care

Lake Superior College




Health Care

Mesabi Range College




Health Care

Rainy River Community College




Retail Trade

University of Minnesota Duluth




Professional and Technical Services

Vermilion Community College




Public Administration

Source MN DEED Graduate Employment Outcomes in Minnesota, 2013-2019

Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College appears to serve its local community particularly well. Of the four instructional programs offered by the school, 88 percent represented the highest share of graduates employed in the region two years after graduation, while 67 percent was the lowest.

At a more detailed level, GEO can tell you what percentage of recent Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services majors from the College of St. Scholastica were employed in the Northeast Minnesota region two years after graduating: the answer is 31.1 percent. (Percentages are based on employed graduates from school years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.) This compares to 41.9 percent of graduates employed in the seven county Twin Cities region (see Figure 1). Institution-wide, a slightly smaller share of CSS graduates were employed in the Twin Cities and a slightly larger share remained in the Northeast (see Figure 2).  

Employment 24 months after graduation from NE postsecondary institution, for more information, contact Carson Gorecki at 218-302-8413.

Figure 1. The College of St. Scholastica. Source: MN DEED Graduate Employment Outcomes in Minnesota, 2013 – 2019. Percentages may not total 100% due to suppression of data.

Graphic showing regions of employment 24 months after graduation, for more information contact Carson Gorecki at 218-302-8413


Recent graduates of the University of Minnesota Duluth also tend to land at jobs in the Twin Cities at higher rates, except from three instructional programs: Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies, Engineering Technologies and Engineering Related Fields, and Public Administration and Social Service Professions. More than half of all employed graduates were reported employed in the Twin Cities Region after two years (see Figure 3). However, separating graduates by award (i.e. certificates, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degrees and certificates) yields a more nuanced picture. Almost 45 percent of graduate degree and certificate recipients were employed in the Northeast Region and 32.3 percent in the Twin Cities Region two years on, perhaps an indication of a stronger connection between UMD graduate programs and local employers.

Graphic showing regions of employment 24 months after graduation, for more information contact Carson Gorecki at 218-302-8413

For more information, contact Carson Gorecki at 218-302-8413.