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NAU Graduates Pay High Price to Stay in Flag

For most college students, graduation day brings a sigh of relief. After years of late night study sessions, assignment deadlines and challenging professors, graduation day means freedom from classrooms and the start of the next chapter of their lives.

Or does it?

For some recent graduates, uncertainties still remain. For example, where will they get their first job? Will it mean relocation to another city, or possibly even another state?

While various factors like employment opportunity and cost of living may influence a recent graduate’s decision, these factors may not play as vital of a role as one may think.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), countrywide, more than 50 percent of graduates indicate they would be seeking employment within 50 miles of their hometown, whereas 42 percent say they are likely to seek a job closer to their university. Basically, NACE found that the majority of graduates want to live and work where they have established connections, in cities where they have ether grown up or gone to school.

Mike Konefal, a Northern Arizona University (NAU) graduate and current Flagstaff resident, says he began his own business while still a student at NAU. “I decided Flagstaff would be a great place to begin my business because of the connections I had established.”

While Konefal’s line of specialty sauces, RisingHy, has been thriving since its start in 2005, not every NAU graduate who has wanted to make Flagstaff home has been able to.

Stephen Craver says that although he would have liked to remain in Flagstaff after finishing his civil engineering degree, the job market here was not as competitive as others.

“After graduating from NAU, I actually moved to Prescott for my first job. The company in Prescott basically made me a salary offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Craver. “The offer was higher than any that I’d heard my fellow students were getting. The company offered a relocation bonus as well.”

Of course, there are options for university graduates who want to stay in town. The City of Flagstaff works with various community partners, says Stacey Button, economic vitality director. There are programs such as Workforce Investment Board (WIB), which assists graduates with placement services and training opportunities. Carol Curtis, director of the WIB career center, says that by offering NAU students internships with local employers and through participation in job fairs, the WIB makes students aware of the different career opportunities that would allow them to remain in the area.

“The city also has programs that place interns as well, primarily through our University to Business program and in coordination with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET),” said Button.

In addition, Button says several local companies, including Southwest Windpower and Motor Excellence, have recently hired student interns.

However, another issue of concern for these graduates is the cost of living in Flagstaff.

“The cost of living and primarily housing is an identified barrier for many people, not just students,” explained Curtis. “Census figures show a drop in working age people and we believe they move to more affordable areas. Every community leader I know has been working on this issue for years. There are some constraining factors on housing such as limited private land in our area and increased cost for construction due to the climate, ground type, etc.”

While both Konefal and Craver agree that the cost of living is a big obstacle for some graduates, there are ways to make it work. Craver recently moved back to Flagstaff and purchased a home.

“I have roommates to help supplement my income,” said Craver. “While I could manage to make mortgage payments on my own, having roommates allows for more financial flexibility and helps alleviate some of the stress.” FBN

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