Student Migration and Academic Achievement

Net Migration

The graph below shows the intersection of college student migration and academic achievement for ACT-tested students in each state and DC. Student migration is measured by college enrollment patterns, and academic achievement is measured by ACT Composite score.

State Migration Patterns and Academic Achievement, 2011*

Scatter plot showing migration ratio and difference in mean ACT Composite score for each state

Graph reads: West Virginia gained about 3 ACT-tested college enrollees from other states for each of its ACT-tested high school graduates who enrolled out of state. The average ACT Composite score for students who migrated into West Virginia to attend college was about 2 points lower than the average score for students who migrated out of West Virginia.

StateMigration RatioDifferenceEnrollmentBrain
Alabama2.6 : 10.0GainDrain
Alaska1 : 7.1-2.8DrainDrain
Arizona1.7 : 1-1.2GainDrain
Arkansas2.5 : 10.0GainGain
California1 : 1.90.6DrainGain
Colorado1 : 1.5-0.4DrainDrain
Connecticut1 : 1.8-0.2DrainDrain
Delaware2.5 : 10.9GainGain
District of Columbia4.2 : 15.0GainGain
Florida1 : 1.60.5DrainGain
Georgia1 : 1.41.5DrainGain
Hawaii1 : 3.4-0.7DrainDrain
Idaho1.3 : 1-2.0GainDrain
Illinois1 : 3.30.2DrainGain
Indiana3 : 11.3GainGain
Iowa2.8 : 1-1.1GainDrain
Kansas1.2 : 1-3.4GainDrain
Kentucky1.6 : 1-1.9GainDrain
Louisiana1.5 : 11.1GainGain
Maine1.5 : 11.3GainGain
Maryland1 : 1.50.8DrainGain
Massachusetts1.6 : 12.1GainGain
Michigan1 : 1.31.6DrainGain
Minnesota1 : 1.9-0.2DrainDrain
Mississippi2.7 : 1-0.6GainDrain
Missouri1.2 : 10.9GainGain
Montana1.4 : 10.3GainGain
Nebraska1.1 : 1-0.1GainDrain
Nevada1 : 2.6-2.2DrainDrain
New Hampshire1.1 : 1-1.0GainDrain
New Jersey1 : 12.5-2.4DrainDrain
New Mexico1 : 1.5-3.5DrainDrain
New York1 : 1.10.3DrainGain
North Carolina2 : 1-0.8GainDrain
North Dakota3 : 10.0GainGain
Ohio1 : 1.2-0.6DrainDrain
Oklahoma2 : 1-0.2GainDrain
Oregon1.5 : 1-1.3GainDrain
Pennsylvania2.4 : 10.7GainGain
Rhode Island4.4 : 1-0.8GainDrain
South Carolina3.1 : 11.4GainGain
South Dakota1.6 : 1-1.0GainDrain
Tennessee1 : 1.41.0DrainGain
Texas1 : 1.90.0DrainDrain
Utah3.4 : 12.3GainGain
Vermont2.1 : 11.1GainGain
Virginia1.4 : 10.3GainGain
Washington1 : 10.0DrainGain
West Virginia2.9 : 1-2.1GainDrain
Wisconsin1.1 : 10.0GainGain
Wyoming1.6 : 1-1.5GainDrain

Along the horizontal axis is the college migration ratio for each state. Ratios that are greater than 1 to 1 represent a net gain of ACT-tested students for the state, whereas ratios that are less than 1 to 1 represent a net loss of ACT-tested students for the state. For example, West Virginia gained about 3 ACT-tested college enrollees from other states for each of its ACT-tested high school graduates that attended college out of state. California, on the other hand, lost about 2 of its ACT-tested high school graduates to colleges in other states for each ACT-tested college enrollee who came into California.

Along the vertical axis is the difference in the average ACT Composite score between students coming into the state to attend college and those leaving the state to attend college. Positive numbers represent a net gain in the average achievement level of ACT-tested students enrolled in that state, whereas negative numbers represent a net loss. For example, the average ACT Composite score for students who migrated into Tennessee to attend college was about 1 point higher than the average score for students who migrated out of Tennessee. In contrast, the average ACT Composite score for students who migrated into Idaho was about 2 points lower than the average score for students who migrated out of the state.

In looking at the intersection of college student migration and academic achievement, states fall into 1 of 4 categories based on their ACT-tested population: states that have (1) enrollment gain and brain gain, (2) enrollment gain but brain drain, (3) enrollment loss but brain gain, and (4) enrollment loss and brain drain.

  • Thirty-one states and DC had migration ratios that were greater than 1 to 1; 19 states had migration ratios that were less than 1 to 1.
  • Roughly half of all states had an average ACT Composite score for in-migrating students that was higher than the average score for out-migrating students.

* States Not Shown

StateMigration RatioDifference in Mean ACT
AK1 : 7.1–2.8
DC4.2 : 1+5.0
KS1.2 : 1 –3.4
NJ1 : 12.5 –2.4
NM1 : 1.5 –3.5
RI4.4 : 1–0.8