Stockton Graduation

President Harvey Kesselman welcomes grads and families to graduation, Sunday Dec. 20, 2015, at Stockton University in Galloway Township.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Andrew Raymond, 23, of Mays Landing will graduate from Stockton next weekend with a degree in biology. He has a good job opportunity lined up as a chemist with a company in South Jersey.

He credits Stockton’s new science building with helping him land that job.

“I wanted to stay local,” he said at the annual graduate toast in the Campus Center. “Everyone wants you to have two years of experience. But I found a local company that was expanding, and I know the equipment and processes they use because the new science building here has that equipment and I got to use it in chemistry labs. It helped that I was local and from Stockton.”

As some 1,500 newly minted Stockton graduates pick up their diplomas this month, their next step might be a job or graduate school. But whether they stay close to home or find greener employment pastures elsewhere may depend on their major and the local job market.

New Jersey leads the nation in the number of high school graduates who leave the state for college and are considered less likely to return. College presidents say expanding the colleges in New Jersey will help keep local talent in state and even recruit bright students from other states.

On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie addressed the “brain drain” issue during a visit to a new facility at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

“We do not want a brain drain from New Jersey to other states,” Christie said in a statement. “We want to keep our best and our brightest not only going to school here but staying and building their careers and their lives here.”

According to Stockton data, 88 percent of last year’s class either found a job or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.

Of 48,000 Stockton alumni, more than 18,000 live in Atlantic or Ocean County and a majority remain in South Jersey. They include teachers, business owners, nurses and casino presidents. About 10,000 alumni live out of state.

While the majority of Stockton students still come from South Jersey, more are being recruited from Central and North Jersey. The new Atlantic City campus is expected to attract new students to a more urban, beachfront campus.

While some graduates, like Raymond, plan to stay local after graduation others plan to move back home, or even out of state for both professional and personal reasons.

Savanna Asta, 21, of Bridgewater in Somerset County, will head off to West Chester University in Pennsylvania for a master’s in language pathology. After that, she wants to work in a hospital and live someplace warm.

“I don’t want to be around for wintertime anymore,” she said. “With my degree I can work anywhere.”

Amber Hamlett, 23, of Atlantic City, a communications and advertising major, said she’ll probably stay close to home for awhile, but might like to move to Philadelphia.

“I think it would be good for my career to be in a city, and New York is too much,” she said. “I don’t want to be too far from my family because I have a two-year-old.”

That family includes her mom Gloria Hamlett, 45, of Atlantic City, who will get her master’s degree in social work from Stockton this month. She got her bachelor’s degree in 2014, but said it was hard to find a job that paid enough for someone her age. She hopes to get a job locally with the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

Stockton has added several master’s degrees in the last several year in response to local demand. As the only local four-year college, Stockton president Harvey Kesselman said they recognize an obligation to help local residents at all levels.

“We have Applied Master’s Degree programs like the MBA, social work, physical therapy, for that reason.” Kesselman said. “They help local residents climb the career ladder and helps keep them here.”

Robert McDowell, 48, of Millville works at a rehabilitation center now, and is going on to graduate school for his master’s in social work. He wants to work in addiction counseling.

“I might stay there,” he said of his job, “but the master’s will give me more options.”

Some graduates will relocate for jobs, or travel to them.

Charles Pacheco, 22, of Kinnelon in Morris County will be working for investment management company Vanguard as a client relations specialist in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

“I don’t mind relocating there,” he said. “It’s not that far from home. and it’s a great opportunity.”

Kesselman, who attended Stockton and never left, said while he would like graduates to stay local, each will make the decision that suits their life. His goal is make sure they are prepared.

“We can’t guarantee them all a job,” he said. “But it is our responsibility to position them to get jobs.”

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