Chitose Suzuki, Associated Press
People look at the Boston skyline from a ferry heading to Spectacle Island, a former trash dump now advertised as the jewel of the Boston Harbor Islands, in Boston, Thursday, June 7, 2007. Massachusetts was recently named one of the best places to live after college.

SALT LAKE CITY — Places with expensive costs of living and high home prices can still be attractive if there are a host of things to do after work, suggests a recent study by GOBankingRates that ranked best and worst states for new college graduates.

While starting salaries are similar in some of the top and bottom ranked states, the numbers also show that the size of a state’s age 20-29 population bracket is important in helping new college grads succeed by providing them with a community of peers.

The highest ranked states — Maryland and Massachusetts — offer a combination of things such as affordable rent and a favorable score on AARP’s livability index, while lowest-ranked Nevada’s 4 percent unemployment rate is one of the worst in the U.S. Utah came in at number 26 on the list.

U.S. regions are in a race to win the economic support and talent offerings of new college grads — as well as the demographic's potential to enrich areas for the long term — and some cities are going all out.

During a speech last month at the Wisconsin Rural Summit, David Ivan, a professor at Michigan State University, discussed the push many small towns are making to woo youth and entrepreneurs.

An important element, Ivan says, is for newcomers to feel they have a hand in designing their new hometowns, according to the Country Report.

“Provide opportunities for (young people) to offer their voice in community decision-making,” Ivan explains. “Leadership in rural places often is the same that’s been in place for 15 to 20 years. People sometimes feel that there’s not a pathway for them to contribute to what’s happening in the community.”

Ivan also advised the group of rural leaders that this generation of college graduate identifies with “quality of place” rather than an attachment to an employer. He suggests the concept of a “third place” factor — a place to be outside of work and home — as an integral element for communities to develop in order to retain new hires.

In addition to being invested in where they live, 4 out of 5 recent college graduates say having a sense of purpose in their work is very important, a new report from Gallup and Bates College found. “Younger workers are more likely to seek satisfaction from their work than previous generations,” the report explains.

" If the rate of job growth does not keep up these young people who are carrying a lot of college debt are going to go where the good jobs are, not where the good bars are. "
Paul Levy, president of the Center City District in Philadelphia

This need for work that matters can lead many new grads away from the areas where they're educated, and some city leaders are trying to head off that draw at an early stage in a student’s education.

In a letter to newly accepted University of New Mexico students, Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller made his case for the city and offered incentives for them to stay at the University of New Mexico for college, such as the opportunity to serve on public boards.

“Young people that are 18+ are every bit a part of making decisions at a city, and city hall, so we want to engage people at the earliest we can engage them,” says Carlos Contreras, director of marketing for the city of Albuquerque. “We’re just encouraging young people to be a part of the solution.”

Still others argue that student loan debt remains the most motivating factor for a new college grad when selecting a place to live.

According to a Campus Philly report, Philadelphia has attracted a robust workforce, but it must continue to provide a competitive job market as millennials age and begin looking for the pay increases of second and third jobs.

Paul Levy, president of the Center City District in Philadelphia, explains:

“(I)f the rate of job growth does not keep up,” Levy warns, “these young people who are carrying a lot of college debt are going to go where the good jobs are, not where the good bars are.”

" So many millennials want to move to a big city and make a life that looks like it’s out of a magazine or something. But you can’t lay a foundation that way. In Buffalo, it’s easier. "
SUNY Buffalo State graduate Sheldon Anderson

Many universities are also feeling a push to keep students local once they graduate and avoid the “brain drain” many college towns suffer.

Laura Quebral, director of the University at Buffalo’s Regional Institute explains: “From an economic development standpoint, we want to keep graduates here. They’re active, they bring ideas, they have energy — and their lifetime earning potential is for sure higher.”

And some graduating students are choosing to stick around.

“So many millennials want to move to a big city and make a life that looks like it’s out of a magazine or something,” SUNY Buffalo State graduate Sheldon Anderson told the Buffalo News. “But you can’t lay a foundation that way. In Buffalo, it’s easier.”

Graduates like Anderson are good news for rust belt cities like Buffalo which need the economic and population boost from recent college grads. But is he a novelty?

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An Indeed Hiring Lab study found that the New York-Newark-Jersey City region was at the top of metro areas keeping its graduates (78 percent), followed by Atlanta (77 percent) and Seattle (75 percent). Meanwhile, Riverside, California (19 percent), Buffalo, New York (21 percent) and Salt Lake City (25 percent) were least likely to retain their graduates.

The study suggests that understanding what attracts recent graduates to even some smaller cities is important to draw this important group:

“Overall, we found that larger metros are more likely to keep their college graduates — and also to attract graduates from other metros. … (I)t is also likely that large metros have a leg up in the availability of such amenities as culture and nightlife, not to mention the presence of other college graduates to socialize with.”