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Map: The states college kids can’t wait to leave

It’s high school graduation season, which means that young adults across the country will spend the next few months in anticipatory angst over their impending college departure. But some will travel farther than others.

In a new analysis based on user data, education analytics company Niche Ink examines the profile of college-bound students. More than half — 58 percent — of high school graduates go to college within 100 miles of home, they found from their analysis of 350,000 Niche users between 2012 and 2014 who they were able to associate with both a high school and a college. Here are a few of the most interesting takeaways:

States in the Northeast lose the most students to other states

Federal data confirms what Niche Ink found: States in New England and the Mid-Atlantic have a tougher time holding onto their high-school graduates.

But that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily undesirable places. As Niche Ink points out in its analysis, that could be due to income levels, the quality of the K-12 education students receive, college cost and quality, and how close graduates are to nearby colleges. The states in the Northeast are far smaller than the states in the South and West, so leaving is a lot easier. Students across the North of the country also tend to score highly on standardized tests, one criteria colleges use in the acceptance process. (Therefore, more high-scoring students may have more college choices and opportunity to leave.)

Niche made a map, but in looking to confirm what they found we found similar data from the federal National Center for Education Statistics that we used to make the map below. What it shows is the share of recent high school graduates enrolled in college in-state out of all those enrolled in college anywhere. That share is smallest in Vermont, where exactly half the students stayed in state in 2010. In Arkansas, Utah and Mississippi, more than 90 percent remained in state.

Note: These  data don’t account for total migration — how many students each state gains from and loses to other states. It reflects only the decisions of each state’s resident high school graduates to stay or go.

Students with higher SAT scores traveled farther

High-achieving students (at least as defined by a single measure, the SAT) go farther away for college. Just 24 percent of students who earned between 1,200 and 1,500 points leave their state for college. That rate is more than doubled — 56 percent — for students who scored at least 2,100. Among those higher-achieving students, the average distance traveled for college was 526 miles.

More than half of the nation’s graduates stay relatively close to home


(Niche Ink)

Fifty eight percent of high school graduates attend college within 100 miles of their hometown, while 72 percent stay in-state, according to Niche Ink. Only 11 percent of students venture more than 500 miles from their hometown. The regional disparity in state size is worth noting: Vermont is 80 miles wide, while Texas is nearly 775 miles wide.

The top 25 colleges home to the farthest-traveling students


(Niche Ink)

The colleges that are home to students who traveled the farthest to get there are a mix of small and specialized schools (with a few exceptions). Specialized schools such as West Point, the Rhode Island School of Design, Berklee College of Music and the U.S. Air Force Academy all rank in the top 10. The remaining schools in the top 10 have relatively small populations (except for standouts Harvard and Stanford).

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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